In terms of their long-term backhaul strategies, mobile operators need to start looking at wireless and fibre backhaul as complementary rather than competing technologies. If they deploy wireless backhaul initially and then gradually transition to fibre they can reduce the Net Present Value (NPV) of their backhaul upgrade by:
7% in developed markets and 31% in emerging markets compared with leased fibre
14% in developed markets and 27% in emerging markets compared with built fibre.
This is the view put forward by Cambridge Broadband Networks in its recent white paper produced in conjunction with Monica Paolini, of Senza Fili Consulting.
The transition to fibre backhaul is often complex, expensive, and time consuming. Building a fibre network requires a huge initial investment and a long deployment time, with permitting and negotiation of right-of-way access rights often taking longer than installation itself. If an operator chooses to lease fibre but does not have a privileged relationship with a fibre provider that ensures affordable pricing, it may find high rental costs in some areas within its footprint, especially in developing countries.
A hybrid approach, however, can ease the pressure many feel under to transition now, upgrade now, and make the necessary – if somewhat onerous – investments, now.
The white paper suggests that there is plenty of breathing space to be had, however, by not jumping straight in to a full-on fibre commitment. It compares the financial implications for operators choosing among different backhaul solutions – wireless, leased fibre, and built fibre – and compares these choices to the adoption of wireless backhaul as an interim solution.
If they have access to spectrum, operators may save money by initially deploying a wireless backhaul solution that is paid off in a short period, and moving to fibre gradually at a later time, when and where it becomes available or cost effective, or when the operator is ready to deploy it. The overall cost savings of the wireless-to-fibre solution are due to the combined effect of the lower cost of wireless backhaul and the financial benefits tied to postponing the fibre investment.