PtmP Wireless Backhaul Market from an All-IP Perspective
Operators' focus on backhaul, driven by their need to add more capacity, resulted in an 11% increase in PtmP equipment shipments between Q1 and Q2 2011. Although operators preferred PtP wireless technology, the PtmP was very attractive as the best alternative in high density areas. The increase in PtmP shipments was anticipated as an emerging market, although both PtP and PtmP are expected to complement each other, particularly in the cities where LTE networks require full coverage for high capacity
Although the PtmP market is very complex because of the different technologies and frequency bands used, it is expected to grow to a market value of US$1 billion by 2016. Beyond 2013, the rise of LTE depoyments, in combination with small cells growth, will drive the growth of PtmP's market adoption
In first half of 2011, many NLOS vendors (for example Taqua, BliNQ) were testing their PtmP products in the TDD spectrum bands as they move toward the 2nd generation product releases in 2012. Given the low cost of spectrum (sub-2¢/MHz for Point of Presence), the operators' requirement for a full picocell backhaul solution should increase the NLOS equipment revenues from 2011-2016 at close to growth rate of 50% per year.
Africa has been the only region in the world where microwave shipments continued to grow throughout 2010 into the first half of 2011. Sales increased over 60% in the second half of 2011, with all microwave vendors indicating the African continent, predominantly the South African market, as the region with the strongest activity and the highest competition. There is a need for additional capacity in the PtmP backhaul segment of cellular networks in Africa. This growth will continue if, as expected, the private equity funds flow in from investors such as Old Mutual Investment Group Africa Infrastructure Investment Managers, Helios and Eaton Tower.
Although Middle Eastern revenues doubled from Q1 to Q2, this increase was not enough to match or surpass Africa. The Middle East continues to hold a market share 40% less than Africa's, continuing the trend seen in 2010. Until 2015, the Middle East's telecommunications investment is expected to decline by $2M year-to-year due to unequal investment trends and political instability (i.e. Egypt, Libya, Syria, etc.) across the region.
PtmP typically requires less than half the hardware for coverage over PtP, showing reductions in CAPEX of up to 50% and in OPEX of up to 70% according to vendors claims. In addition, operators can maximize their return on investment by enabling faster time to revenue. Some vendor's solution enables additional sites in an existing sector, where each requires only one new Remote Terminal, minimal planning and no additional RF license. Additional capacity can be inserted on a channel-by-channel, sector-by-sector basis, allowing the operator to minimize initial capital expenditure and tailor subsequent investments to match growing subscriber numbers.
Frequencies at 26GHz bands have been in high demand during Q1 and Q2 2011, leading to the possibility these bands may become quickly saturated. Shipments in this range grew during 2011 (27% quarter-over-quarter between Q1 and Q2). Equipment shipments in this band are expected to increase, since it attracts the most concentration due to the volume of licensed bands that operators hold, such as Mobile Telephone Network (MTN) concentrated in the regions of Africa (South Africa) and Middle East (UAE) and some in Europe, (UK, and Portugal).
Intracom Telecom's PtmP product with an optional coexisting PtP solution seemed to be very attractive during Q2 2011, gaining market share for the first time in Africa. In Europe during Q2 2011, Intracom Telecom reported revenue at 60% more than Cambridge Broadband Network. However, both vendors are extremely competitive not only in Africa but also in the Middle East, where Cambridge Broadband Networks dominated the 26GHz band sales, leaving room for Intracom Telecom in the 28GHz band.
Most vendors define radio's efficiency based on Adaptive Modulation, bandwidth management or the statistical multiplexing features. New solutions and products are adding a new set of features impacting all Ethernet solutions. BliNQ Network offers an intelligent algorithm for Dynamic Bandwidth Sharing and interference management. It also supports Self Organizing Network features and VLANs to secure traffic. Alvarion is among the leaders of the intelligent algorithms, presenting three different types, FEC (Forward Error Correction) Algorithm, CAC (Connection Admission Control) Algorithm and DES (Data Encryption Standard) Algorithm.
The FDD systems refer strictly to bi-directional voice service since these occupy a symmetric downlink and uplink channel pair. However, as a trend and on a per case basis, TDD is the choice and provides the ability to define the percentage of Upload versus Download traffic (asymmetric). This can be especially useful for specific uplink-centric applications such as those used by many vertical markets (video surveillance) where the application benefits from a ratio for Upload/Download. That ratio is no longer constrained to a fixed 50/50 mix. Most of the NLOS products operate in the Local Multipoint Distribution Service bands (unpaired licensed bands) and are TDD-based, as from vendors such as Taqua, BliNQ Networks, Airspan and Alvarion.
Whether we refer to NLOS or microwave technology, the time-to-deploy for a new connection or even a cell site is significantly reduced to a few hours. The turnkey feature offered by many vendors such as Alvarion, Bluwan, Blinq Networks and Proxim Wireless saves significant time, since the terminals are pre-configured and preloaded with all the necessary software. Still, the time to configure the antenna's direction demands the most installation time, requiring angle of degree determination, in order to achieve the expected site coverage.
Carrier WiFi solutions will always be sought not only for WiFi offload (city hot zones) but also to facilitate large-scale, indoor-outdoor deployments for Tier 1 Carriers. In addition, many applications such as video surveillance and public safety need monitoring based on WiFi solutions. These are implemented successfully and commercially by Proxim Wireless. Cambium Networks (ex Motorola Solutions' Canopy) and Belair compete in the unlicensed bands that are still ideal for 3G/Wi-Fi high user concentration. Belair became the leader in Q2 2011 of the carrier WiFi market, reporting 31% of shipments in North America compared to Motorola's 9%. North America is currently the most active region, accounting for 55% of the carrier WiFi market, largely due to WiFi hot zones needed to add more capacity to the network. In North America, WiFi is used by dominant operators such as AT&T, as well as cable carriers such as Time Warner Cable, Comcast and Cablevision.
Most PtmP vendors pay special attention to the emerging small cells requirements and tap into this huge potential market. Key small cells features are small size, lightweight products deployed outdoors and able to withstand harsh weather conditions and environments. The small cells, Outdoor Metro Pico/Femto, could easily be supported from PtmP products, adding extra capacity to the cell site and the aggregation node. Ideally, all this hardware should be flexibly mounted on any street level deployment (light pole or rooftop), with intelligent and independent power features (Power of Ethernet), support for all weather conditions standards, for availability in 30-50 mm/hr rain and temperatures ranging from - 45°ree;C to + 55°ree;C. Split mount equipment will still be a player, but the footprint will move very close to zero