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Converging previously discrete functions is the most effective way to improve network efficiency and simplify operations. In mobile networks, radio and backhaul systems have traditionally been deployed, operated, and managed independently. Ericsson, and a partnership of Nokia and Coriant, are each introducing a new capability to converge their radio and backhaul transport systems at Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2015.

Beginning to converge radio and IP transport infrastructure

Traditionally, the role of backhaul networks is limited to packet transport, carrying traffic from the cell tower or base station to the mobile core where service intelligence manipulates the packet streams. With flatter mobile architectures such as LTE, base stations can interact with each other and service intelligence can effectively be applied closer to the cell tower. At MWC 2015 we are seeing vendors begin to integrate their radio and backhaul systems under a common orchestration and management system to improve network performance and operational efficiency.

Ericsson is announcing progress on a new architecture and products at MWC to meet the demands of evolving mobile networks. Supporting a new level of integration between its radio and IP transport systems, Ericsson's new Router 6000 products are designed to deliver the bandwidth capacity to support future LTE Advanced, M2M, and 5G networks, and provide a migration path to converged networks and future programmability with software-defined networks (SDNs). Ericsson's Network Manager (ENM), introduced at MWC 2014, will provide unified management and orchestration for the company's integrated radio and IP transport solution.

At MWC, Coriant and Nokia will demonstrate the results of their partnership to extend Nokia's Self Organizing Network (SON) concept to mobile backhaul transport using SDN. The demonstration shows the integration of Coriant's Smart Router 8600 and Transcend SDN controller with Nokia's LTE base station, System Architecture Evolution (SAE) gateway, and Self Organizing Network (SON) technology, to reconfigure network resources based on real-time analytics of network traffic and quality.

With unified management and orchestration for operational efficiency, and tight coupling of radio and IP transport systems for end-to-end visibility and control, this new direction in mobile networks promises improvements in congestion control and congestion avoidance, as well as improved security capabilities. More than simply automated service provisioning, these integrated solutions will employ SDN concepts and analytics to automatically reconfigure radio and IP transport systems in order to optimize the use of network resources while maximizing the end users' quality of experience (QoE). These new integrated solutions are not yet deployment-ready. Ericsson's Router 6000 products will not be available until 2016, and Nokia and Coriant's demonstration is a proof of concept, not a product announcement. However, Ovum expects mobile operators will see the benefits in this approach and Ericsson and Nokia and Coriant will be at the forefront of this new converged systems approach for mobile infrastructure.


Further reading

Mobile Backhaul Forecast Report: 2014–19, TE0006-000908 (July 2014)


David Krozier, Principal Analyst, Intelligent Networks

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