Building Efficiencies in the Backhaul and Fronthaul

Carl Weinschenk

The increase in data flow to and from small cells, macro base stations and residential and business users is making the world of fronthaul and backhaul much more interesting.

There are wired and wireless approaches to fronthaul and backhaul, though the two can be combined to increase efficiencies. It is ironic to note that the growth of wireless is giving new life to wired solutions. RCR Wireless reported last week that Verizon has signed a big deal with supplier Prysmian Group. The company, which has an ongoing relationship with Verizon, will supply it with more than 10.6 million miles of fiber during the next three years.

That is the second fiber buy the company recently made. It signed a three-year, $1.05 million deal with Corning for as much as 12.4 million miles of fiber. The press release says that some of the fiber from Corning and Prysmian will go to support the wireless initiatives because 5G requires more backhaul infrastructure.

AT&T is in the process of developing AirGig, a fronthaul and backhaul that uses the virtually ubiquitous power infrastructure. Signals are not actually sent with the electricity. Instead, the cabling acts as a waveguide for multi-millimeter signals. A waveguide restricts how much the signals can expand over distance. This minimizes energy loss and lets the signals be useful over great distances.


Telecompetitor reported last week that the carrier elaborated on previously announced trials. The company has applied for or received 200 patents. Side benefits of AirGig are that the platform can pinpoint line breaks or even problems such as branches leaning on cables.

Last week, TransPacket, a vendor of low- and fixed-latency optical Ethernet transport, announced that ADVA Optical Networking is using its IP Cores in a fronthaul trial. Pre 5G fronthaul interfaces use Common Public Radio Interface.Open Base Station Architecture Initiative (CPRI and OBSAI), according to the press release. 5G interfaces will be Ethernet-based, however. According to the company, they must be “very time-sensitive, requiring an accurate control of latency, packet delay variation and uplink-downlink delay asymmetry.” The release says that 5G fronthaul must be “bounded and very low latency” which, it claims, are characteristics of the FUSION technology ADVA is testing.

The backhaul/fronthaul area – in essence, the area of the network closest to the edge – is struggling to not be the weak link between the remote areas of the network and elements closer to the core. This is an important area that can offer great savings and efficiencies or be a drag on overall network efficiency.

Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at cweinsch@optonline.net and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.


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