Are Carrier Macro Sites the new Edge Data Centers?


Macro sites, like data centers, need larger backhaul!

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When looking at macro sites, I think we can all agree that 1Gbps is no longer sufficient except many in a very small community where they are just happy to have coverage. The reality, everyone judges the coverage on download and upload speeds in today’s world. Latency is big, but people want to see their favorite cat videos in real-time whenever possible.

What makes this possible? If you said fiber back, then you are

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correct! The backhaul serves everything that the macro site can talk to, so it is critical. I think that 100Gbps and up backhaul will be a requirement. Especially in today’s world where a macro site might be the backhaul for several small cell sites or even a several CRAN sites. If you think about it, 3 sectors all talking to many UE devices simultaneously will require them all to have a high QoS, (quality of service). We should make sure they can all get the coverage they need. With massive MIMO rolling out and 5G taking off, we need it now more than ever.

However, we can’t get fiber everywhere. I would like to think that 99% of all the macro sites have fiber by now. This is a key thing for rolling forward. We need to stop thinking of the macro site service on the UEs and start to think of them a major hub, maybe even a remote data center.

Why? The macro site will house edge/FOG servers to lower latency. They will be a key spot for fixed wireless. They are also a connector of CRAN and small cells across many cities. They are no longer just serving the end-user! They are servicing all users, fixed, mobile, and backhaul. We need to change the paradigm of the macro site from a standalone cell site to a remote data center, a “hub” if you will.

So, the backhaul connection to the macro sites in urban areas should be connected like a major data center, 100Gbps and up. They should also be redundant. When I say redundant I think of a wireless connection of over 1Gbps to another fiber connected macro site.

Think about it, the macro site must feed all the end users, small cells within range, CRAN radio heads within range, and potentially fixed wireless customers in range. If a customer of any kind is in range, the macro site could feed it.

If the macro site is feeding all those customer, then the backhaul feeding the macro site is critical and should be redundant. It must be huge, maybe even 100Gbps or higher. Let’s look at the backhaul suppliers as a key partner in any 5G rollout.

Low latency will make it so we should have a server nearby. If thGet the Wireless Deployment Handbook today!e macro site is near a building, then it could be fed by a remote BBU, like a Cloud RAN. This makes sense because we need to put these to work.

I think some carriers are looking at remotely feeding the macro sites because they see the risks at a tower. Lighting, other people at the site working, security risks. All that and the big determining factor, the tower companies will want way more money to add equipment to the ground of a tower site.

It looks like the macro site is going to be more than just a transmitter in the 5G world. I think that massive MIMO is going to push it to new limits. Then we have fixed wireless that would fit nicely into the macro site.

When working with the carriers, you need to help then realize that the backhaul will be critical. They need to plan accordingly. I am sure they are already doing this, but try to work with them so that it’s expandable in the future. They will want growth if the site has major traffic on it. If you can deliver extra fiber, then do it. They will need it in the future.5g-deployment-plan-front-cover-3k-pixels

That’s where this is coming from, the massive MIMO requirements and then 5G all rolling out over the next 2 years. By the way, how long does it take to upgrade fiber at your sites? Sometimes over a year. So, plan accordingly. It’s not a quick thing especially if they must add a new fiber run.

Oh, the one thing I didn’t mention is that most carriers are going to offer IOT services in one way or another. With 5G coming this is going to require URLL, Ultra reliable low latency. To do this, they will need to have MEC, Mobile Edge Computing, or is it Multi-Access Edge Computing, or Multiservice Edge Computing? Anyway, MEC and network splicing, NS will be needed to make this happen. The idea is that you can run multiple applications and networks on the same backhaul and fronthaul. The user that needs high bandwidth is very different that the use that needs IOT services. That why they want to slice the networks in different parts for different services.

Now more than ever, we need to understand how important fiber is to backhaul. We also need to look at alternative methods to connect all those remote sites, like CRAN and small cells. They will be a key factor to obtaining coverage and densification. After all, massive MIMO can only do so much. We will need to connect all those devices and fiber everywhere may not be cost-effective and I know for a fact it’s not quick. Why do you think Crown and ExteNet made a point of getting it to the sites for the carrier? It’s because they know how hard it is to get fiber to a new site or do upgrades after the fact. Forward thinking helps deployments go quicker. It just does.

Like a data center, the macro site will be feeding other sites and may be called on to feed other macro sites. I would think that the carriers will connect many of them with some type of wireless backhaul that can handle over 1Gbps. If the fiber gets cut, they can run on lower bandwidth which is better than being down altogether. We want to maintain some degree of reliable coverage.

The face of the macro site will change, they will be called upon to be data centers in urban areas. They will feed more than mobile users. It is critical to remember that.

I hope you get what I am trying to say here, more data and computing will be pushed to the edge. The macro site will be called on to do more than it ever has before. It is no longer just the link to your smartphone. It is going to be called on to be your small cells backhaul AND your CRAN’s fronthaul AND your fixed wireless connection to your home or business. You see, the macro site is quickly becoming the new data center. Even if the computing may not be physically at the site, but rather at a nearby telco closet where it is better protected. This is going to make or break the carriers in their move to take over more and more markets. They want to compete in the fixed market which is still cable and FTTH, but soon to be FWTTH, Fixed Wireless To The Home.

The macro site is the new mini data center, on the edge!

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FYI – Stephen Hawking passed this week at the age of 74. Talk about a forward-thinking genius. I wish to honor him by saying thank you for never giving up. Thank you for showing us that a handicap does not slow brilliance down but instead pushes some brilliant but makes them rise to new levels. Thank you for the knowledge you shared and the courage you showed by never quitting. I appreciate all that you have done for us. Thank you, Stephen Hawking, for helping us see at a new level.

Be smart, be safe, and pay attention!

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