The transition from T-carrier and microwave links for wireless tower backhaul to fiber fed Ethernet is well underway. CenturyLink is now joining the Ethernet wireless backhaul trend, using Calix gear. We only have to look at AT&T’s experience with the iPhone to understand the dramatic increase in bandwidth demand posed by emerging smartphones. Add the pending migration to 4G, and efficiently scaling mobile wireless backhaul becomes critical for all involved.
For wireline dominated companies like CenturyLink, the transition to Ethernet for mobile wireless backhaul creates potential opportunity. Wireless companies will have to upgrade their backhaul links one way or another. Calix reports “A recently published New Paradigm Resources Group (NPRG) report found that there were more than 250,000 cell towers in North America, yet less than 16 percent of them were fiber fed.” Wireless companies may choose to manage some of this new infrastructure themselves, but in more rural territory (and some urban and suburban), they will probably continue to look to wireline carriers for this upgraded infrastructure. That provides real opportunity for companies like CenturyLink and others. It may represent the best way for many wireline carriers, telco and cable, who lack true wireless assets to participate in the wireless game at some level. Qwest also recently announced Ethernet services for wireless backhaul.