Microwave is seen as a solid alternative to fiber and T1 as wireless operators ponder new small-cell architectures and/or deal with escalating mobile data requirements and costs on their networks.

Case in point: Microwave is scalable, cost-effective and may be a better alternative to both fiber and T1, depending on geography. Because of this, operators may put small cells on the back burner.

“One of the major challenges with deployment of small-cell architectures is how to provide backhaul to the cell. While fiber is the ideal solution, that is not always physically possible with small cells and so microwave is being seen as an ideal alternative” notes Iain Gillott, president and founder of iGR, a market research consultancy focused on the wireless and mobile industry. “But, according to our new research, the major operators have many concerns about the viability of microwave for small cells. These concerns are significant enough that they could significantly slow – or even stop – the deployment of small-cell architectures”.

New and emerging vendors in this space are hardware-, software- and network-agnostic, thus providing for a greater level of flexibility during this period of flux, the group says, adding the number of new vendors also raises concerns of the mobile operators, many of whom are questioning the validity of some of the marketing claims.

“A general concern is that some of the new vendors are over-hyping claims for their product’s performance,” iGR says. “Mobile operators expect that new and incumbent microwave backhaul vendors will eventually be able to address their concerns but, for the time being, backhaul is likely to be a significant roadblock on the road to small-cell deployment. In our opinion, the microwave backhaul industry has significant work to do to realize the full potential and meet the goals expected of it.”

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