CBNL, Betting on PMP Microwave for Efficient Backhaul


Driving backhaul strategies for global operators, UK based Cambridge Broadband Networks Limited has carved a niche for itself when it comes to successfully meeting the operator’s challenge of creating efficient backhaul ecosystems.

The company is betting big on Point-to-Multipoint microwave to enable cost effective backhaul solutions for telecom operators. Lionel Chmilewsky, CEO, Cambridge Broadband Networks Limited (CBNL) speaks with about the company’s current focus and future plans.

Lionel Chmilewsky_CEO_CBNL

What are some of the top priorities for the company today?

As an ever-growing company, CBNL is focused on strengthening our technology leadership and bringing real value to our customer’s networks. This means developing innovative products which deliver the capacity, flexibility and total cost of ownership savings demanded by today’s market.

We are committed to utilising our solutions to add value to operator’s services, helping them quickly deploy advanced mobile backhaul and enterprise access networkswhilst improving revenues.

We have already seen how this differentiation can play a major role in supporting operator’s long term aspirations and help them compete more strongly in a highly competitive market place.

The most recent demand for our carrier grade VectaStar solution has come from Asia-Pacific (APAC), covering both the mobile backhaul and enterprise access markets.

As the largest point-to-multipoint (PMP) microwave vendor in the industry, we support service providers across 40 countries (including seven of the world’s top ten largest operators) with networks that provide the optimum balance of price and performance.

This quickly meets consumer expectations, whilst maintaining operator’s valuable revenues –be that for 3G/LTE backhaul, small cells, or connecting multiple corporate sites with fast internet services. With the rise in data traffic showing no signs of slowing, operators are looking for networks which can easily and cost effectively scale to meet future demands.

Cost effective technologies like PMP microwave, which requires half the equipment and resources to expand networks compared to point-to-point (PTP), are therefore becoming more important and will be a key feature for APAC in the years ahead.

On the technology front, we are continuing to invest heavily in R&D and in bringing new innovative products to market which offer enhanced services to our customers. We recently launched our new VectraStar Gigabit and Small Cell wideband products, doubling platform capacity to 600Mb/s.

This extra performance allows operators to meet the increased data demands of LTE macro and small cell networks, providing customers with faster mobile speeds and serving the growing trend for multimedia services.

As operators the world over move towards next gen communications infrastructure 4G or even 5G – this means huge data clogging at the network level – How can backhauling solutions solve this problem and what role can you play?

Growth in LTE and the subsequent rise in mobile data traffic is leading to an increase in infrastructure investment. Operators have the challenge of efficiently scaling networkstodeliver the capacity for new mobile services whilst maintaining revenues.

The good news is that there has been significant advances in wireless backhaul technology over recent years. The latest wireless products provide the high capacity these data hungry networks demand – be that at a macro or small cell level.

However, it is vital that backhaul infrastructure not only meets capacity requirements, but delivers a low cost per bit of data to help build a profitable business case for operators. Our VectaStar PMP microwave platform has been designed to do just that.

By using area-licensed spectrum, VectaStar creates a sector of backhaul coverage from a single hub. Multiple cell sites can be backhauled within this sector, withbandwidth dynamically shared across all sites.

Due to this real-time allocation of spectrum, VectaStar enables the ‘troughs’ of one cell site’s traffic demands to be filled by the ‘peaks’ of another. This reduces equipment and spectrum resources, whilst providing the guaranteed quality of service demanded bynext generation networks.

How cost effective are your solutions and what kind of operators or ISPs are you looking at?

Operators have known for some time that they need to innovate how they do business to maintain profitability. However, the extensive capital expenditure (CAPEX) and operating expenditure (OPEX) in setting up and running new infrastructure is seeing operators struggle to make a successful business case.

The equipment and resource savings of VectaStar provides significant CAPEX reductions compared to fibre or PTP microwave. Coupled with savings across the lifespan of a PMP network, this vastly reduces the total cost of ownership (TCO).

This was recently validated by analyst consultancy SenzaFili who found that PMP microwave delivers TCO savings of up to 50 per cent over other forms of backhaul.

It’s essential the industry continues to innovate as wireless technologies like VectaStar are delivering the performance and profits operators require as the mobile landscape evolves. When it comes to operators, we currently serve multiple Tier 1 service providers such as Telefonica, Airtel, Vodacom, Etisalat and MTN.

In addition, we’ve deployed ISP and enterprise access networks for service providers across the globe which connects 1000s of business with fast connectively.

What are the geographies where you have your presence today and what are your plans to expand to other geographies such as India?

CBNL is a truly global company. We serve over 70 operators (including seven of the top ten largest operators) and have live VectaStar deployments in over 40 countries. We have a very strong customer base across Europe, Africa and the Middle East- working with the Tier 1 operators across these regions.

There has also been great traction for our solutions in Latin America, with projects underway in Brazil and live networksin place across Argentina, Mexico, Uruguay, Peru and Venezuela. The most recent growth has been in APAC and we are also seeing traction for our solutions in North America. One of our latest projects has been a major enterprise access network in Indonesia and we are in trials with major operators in this region.

The global adoption of PMP microwave highlights that efficient backhaul technologies are becoming a worldwide trend and we see great potential in India.

We are already experiencing high demand for our solutions in India and, once spectrum is allocated, India will realise the huge social and economic benefits that can come from providing operators with the cost effective infrastructure to improve their services to consumers and businesses.

What kind of growth are you looking at and where is this growth going to come from?

LTE will play a significant role in providing growth – both at a macro and small cell level. The drive for high capacity and low cost small cell backhaul fits the sweet spot of PMP microwave and we expect VectaStar Metro to play an important role in this market.

We also expect enterprise access to drive growth, especially in Latin America and APAC. There is demand from enterprises for faster and more reliableconnectivity and operators will lookto harness this revenue stream.

In many cases, enterprises will be served by independent networks, however a growing trend amongst operators is to provide enterprise access servicesdirectly from the mobile backhaul infrastructure.

Let’s take a new LTE network as an example. By creating a converged PMP microwave backhaul network, infrastructure can be prioritised for mobile serviceswhilst spare capacity can be used todeployservices to businesses via virtual networks.

We’ve supported operators across multiple regions with this innovative approach which maximises resources to provide richer services and increased profitability. There is also the possibility for growth in unconnected remoteareas, something we have done very effectively across Africa.

The high cost of traditional infrastructurehas meant these locations were often underserved, however advances in technology now providethe business case to connect these areas which will bring profound social and economic benefits.

What are some of the big technology challenges that you see today? What is your opinion on technologies such as carrier grade Ethernet?

As we’ve discussed, the central challenge worldwide is creating networks ever more cost effectively, as consumer’s expectations of their experience continue to grow while revenues remain flat. Easy access to RF spectrum is fundamental to answering this challenge, because it is the ‘raw material’ for wireless connectivity.

Wireless solutions, especially innovations like CBNL’s PMP portfolio, give operators the flexibility they need. In some markets, access to RF spectrum is overly constrained, and that’s a real issue.

Carrier grade Ethernet is a catch-all term for a great many things, including some features which are already on operators’ mandatory requirement lists. So there’s no doubt we’ll continue to see it being adopted widely.