IP, LTE, Ethernet triumvirate drive testing agenda

There’s no doubt that mobile operators have gotten the religion about boosting backhaul capacity — just today Verizon talked about delivering Ethernet over fiber to more than 1000 backhaul sites. Network equipment vendors, in particular Ethernet specialists, are poised to take advantage of this opportunity, but test and service assurance vendors are snapping to attention too.

Today, EXFO, which specializes on test and assurance equipment — and is amping up its focus on IP-related opportunities — announced a new end-to-end assesment solution for mobile backhaul networks with a focus on testing Ethernet traffic.

The new solution lets network operators remotely turn up, monitor, troubleshoot and validate services across the entire backhaul network, with a goal of minimizing truck-rolls and visits to often remote tower sites, the company said. It made the announcement at Ethernet Expo today in New York.

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Today, backhaul networks are dominated by leased line T-1/E-1 deployments, representing a significant portion of a mobile operator’s opex (globally, $22 billion annually, according to Yankee Group). The move to fiber and microwave carrying IP and Ethernet over it is in its early stages but is accelerated by the boom in mobile data services and the coming of all-IP LTE (see chart, courtesy of Exfo white paper: Testing Lifecycle of a Mobile Backhaul Network).
“Mobile backhaul upgrades to Ethernet are getting a lot of attention,” said Vikas Arora, chief technology officer for EXFO, in a call with analysts today, adding that “turning up the tests to troubleshoot [Ethernet backhaul] is quite complex.”

During the call, Arora highlighted the ten mega-trends driving next-generation network deployment — including access upgrades such as FTTx, LTE and HSPA; core IMS deployment; 40G and 100G metro transport; and more — all of which are forcing operators to deploy more sophisticated and user experience-driven testing solutions.

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