There was a certain sense of urgency when Scott McClure, director of TESSCO’s Wireless Broadband Business Unit, followed his quest for a small-cell backhaul product. He expects 60 to 70 percent of small-cell backhaul to be wireless, and carriers are beginning to gear up.
“Our suppliers are working on [a non-line-of-sight] type of backhaul product, but we have service providers calling us right now wanting to set up small-cell trials,” McClure said.
To see where the market is going near term, simply look at the supply chain. Distributors are preparing now for small-cell deployments.
“I have to have a product that is focused on the small cell backhaul to serve the carriers and integrators that are going to be doing these deployments,” McClure said. “It is an emerging market that needs to be addressed.”
TESSCO already offered a variety of backhaul products by such companies as Cambian Networks, Exalt and Redline Communications for macrocell backhaul, building-to-building enterprise communications and connecting clients for a service provider, but most of them use line-of-site transmission.
“None of our products were optimized for small-cell backhaul, which is going to be a key component of the next-generation builds, based on capacity needs and spectrum usage,” McClure said.
As McClure researched the market for a small-cell backhaul product, Blinq Networks’ non-line-of-sight system caught his eye. The point-to-multipoint X-100, which operates over 50 megahertz of spectrum in the 3.65-GHz band, had what he was looking for and is now being distributed by the company.
“I did a lot of research and decided that Blinq is providing the first product on the market that addresses what I think the small-cell market needs,” McClure said.
Small-cell backhaul demands a small, aesthetically pleasing form factor, according to McClure, and it has to be energy efficient. Additionally, and perhaps most important, it has to handle non-line-of-site applications connecting multiple small cells to the network.
“Street-level environments are constantly changing,” he said. “The backhaul has to be able to adapt to that environment using very smart software and routing protocols.”
McClure is also looking into millimeter wave products, which he expects will be good for short distance, high-capacity backhaul, but are not as good for non-line-of-sight.
“Those are for very high-capacity backhaul where there is very high traffic,” he said. “We are looking to distribute a product in that area. You must have enough capacity to make the backhaul worthwhile. A phone line won’t work. DSL won’t work.”