Explosive Mobile Data Growth Makes Fiber a Strong Backhaul Solution

Wes_headshot_blog_size Wes Oxlee May 3, 2017

WDM-video-captureThis post is part of a blog series about the updated LTE Best Practices eBook, which is available for download from the CommScope website.

Data traffic in mobile networks continues to grow rapidly, with no signs of slowing down. Macro cells with LTE sectors generate multiple gigabits of traffic as they deliver streaming video and other high-data demand services. To keep pace with the demand for gigabits-per-second transmission capacity, mobile operators are increasingly using dedicated fiber connectivity to build their backhaul networks, and here’s why:

  • Reliability—Fiber offers extremely reliable backhaul uptime, leading to increased subscriber satisfaction.
  • Scalability—Capacity can be easily expanded through multiplexing wavelengths on existing strands or by pulling new strands through existing conduit.
  • Capacity—Fiber can keep pace with growing backhaul requirements without the throughput and distance limitations of other technologies.
  • Redundancy—Fiber can provide critical macro cell backup for the continuing flow of network traffic if the primary backhaul link fails.

With 5G on the horizon, dark fiber (i.e. unused but already installed fiber strands) is being recognized as a strategic asset for providing backhaul links to support wireless cell densification. Driven by small cells, 5G cell density is projected to be four to six times that of 4G cell density. Since installing new fiber can be expensive and time-consuming, some carriers are leveraging the extensive footprint and coverage of their existing fiber to the home (FTTH) networks—so-called “buried spectrum”—to provide lit and dark fiber services.

By utilizing some innovative fiber backhaul connectivity solutions, operators can use the same fiber strands for multiple services by separating cell site traffic and residential broadband traffic onto different wavelengths. Passive CWDM (coarse wavelength division multiplexing) and DWDM (dense wavelength division multiplexing) transmission modules can be placed at both ends of the fiber to combine and separate the different wavelengths. Or traffic can be kept on separate fiber strands with connectivity at the hubs and closures designed to route the traffic appropriately.

For more information, check out the new “Fiber Backhaul” chapter in our updated LTE Best Practices eBook. It’s free for downloading. If you have any questions, leave me a comment and I’ll get back to you.

About the Author


Wes Oxlee

Wes Oxlee is director of Business Development and Strategy for the CommScope Connectivity Solutions business unit. Wes has 34 years of telecommunications industry experience with a primary focus on optical fiber external plant networks. Following a 16-year career with Telstra, where he was the national technical specialist for Fiber Optics External Plant, he joined CommScope in 2000. Wes is a certified fiber-to-the-home professional and, in his current role, he is focused on developing innovative fiber solutions and architectures that will support the next-generation wireless networks.