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Testing Solutions: Critical to effective backhaul functioning

April 30, 2012

The emergence of next-generation network (NGN) technologies and increasing use of smartphones have resulted in exponential growth of mobile data traffic. As a result, operators across the world are focusing on a strong and reliable backhaul infrastructure to manage the growing demand for high bandwidth services. Besides introducing significant improvements to the existing system, they are considering the option to migrate to emerging backhaul technologies.

 

In order to facilitate this upgrade and achieve a smooth technology transition, operators need to undertake a thorough validation of the new connections to their networks. They are looking at tools and solutions which would help in accurately testing the backhaul infrastructure within a reasonable time and in a cost-effective manner. There is a growing demand for testing and measurement (T&M) tools that allow service providers to verify their existing legacy backhaul networks at an affordable cost as well as meet the requirements of service level agreements while migrating to new backhaul technologies.

Considering the need for testing the existing and emerging backhaul infrastructure, the global mobile backhaul testing equipment market is expected to witness a compound annual growth rate of 12.1 per cent during 2011-14. One of the key factors contributing to this market growth is the surging mobile data traffic, which is expected to grow further with the introduction of NGN services.

Technology vendors across the world are developing mobile backhaul testing equipment and solutions which can meet quality of service, clock synchronisation and network management requirements. They are investing in research and development activities for designing T&M tools that are compatible with multiple technology standards.

Further, the emergence of carrier Ethernet as a backhaul technology has led to a new generation of Ethernet service activation test standards. The T&M requirements for a carrier Ethernet backhaul infrastructure are unique. Operators want end-to-end visibility of backhaul platforms so that the problems can be identified easily and addressed quickly, thereby reducing the time needed to restore services. They are also looking for tools that can quickly diagnose local problems and monitor Ethernet backhaul operations at multiple levels. Service providers need T&M equipment which can perform Ethernet verification tests on all networks from a centralised location.

Also, the supporting transport infrastructure in an Ethernet backhaul network, such as fibre networks, copper connections and microwave, require continuous performance monitoring. This supervision is necessary to ensure that early warning of an impending failure is received, which would help operators to immediately switch their network parts to the automated standby facility in case of a circuit outage.

While operators will deploy new backhaul technologies to support NGN mobile services, they are also likely to retain some of their existing backhaul infrastructure, especially the part including time division multiplex (TDM) switched circuits. Therefore, while carrier Ethernet will dominate the backhaul segment in the future, there needs to be a focus on T&M requirements and service verification of the existing plesiochronous digital hierarchy and synchronous digital hierarchy networks.

Besides having the flexibility and functionality to test and monitor backhaul capabilities across different technologies, operators need service verification to migrate from existing to new technologies. This transition would require flexible as well as reliable T&M approaches that would allow network and field technicians to install, verify, maintain and troubleshoot different types of backhaul circuits. Further, the provision of flexible, expert service verification tools to field technicians for streamlining processes results in cost savings in capacity addition as well as improvements in the quality of the mobile backhaul network.

Backhaul test tools must work in harmony with the rest of the maintenance system. Performance monitoring and remote testing functions are at times built into the same network elements.

Finally, operators which regularly test and monitor their backhaul infrastructure need user-friendly tools. Backhaul infrastructure and mobile networks supported by it involve several technologies that can confuse a technician. The right mix of functionality and user-friendliness simplifies the process of backhaul testing and monitoring significantly. Service verification instruments with a simple and single interface are crucial for maintaining productivity. A single instrument which enables engineers and field personnel to easily and quickly analyse backhaul operations, covering both Ethernet and legacy circuits, would result in significant time and cost savings for an operator.

Going forward, it is important that vendors and service providers develop and use T&M tools that support new and upcoming backhaul technology standards as well as those that have been in place for several years.

As backhaul operators migrate to Ethernet from a TDM switched circuit environment, they will need unified service verification tools that are easy to use and can enhance productivity. Further, the deployment of cost-effective T&M platforms will help operators meet backhaul requirements, thereby ensuring that their backhaul infrastructure meets strict performance requirements and delivers high bandwidth services.

Ultimately, the ability of T&M equipment to analyse network synchronisation, understand the operation of protocols and respond to different conditions will play a key role in the adoption of Ethernet technologies and deployment of efficient mobile backhaul networks in the future.

 
 

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