Will mm-wave be used for fronthaul?

About 3 weeks ago, we wrote about the use of mm-wave for outdoor small cells in a blog post about small cell backhaul and how the market research companies see the explosive growth starting from 2017. At the same time, there is a push for virtualization of the macro cell base stations using Cloud-RAN (C-RAN) to reduce cost and increase densification to meet the 10x mobile data traffic growth that is happening from now to 2022 [1]. C-RAN is an architecture that use a remote radio head (RRH) that is separated from the baseband unit (BBU) by for example fiber or wireless millimeter wave links. These links use so called fronthaul to send the data between the RRH and the BBU. Looking at the segmentation by technologies for fronthaul (see picture below), it will be WDM, dedicated fiber and mm-wave that will capture approximately 75% of the total market by 2030.


Mm-wave will have the major growth rate with an estimated compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of about 70 per cent until 2020 according to a report by SNS Research (see below picture), reaching a total of 450 MUSD in 2020. The same report declares that the mm-wave fronthaul market will reach 1400 MUSD by 2030 (see below picture), which means mm-wave will keep on growing at a significant rate over the coming 13 years.


 What drives this growth?

It is the same driver as for small cell backhaul, i.e. the continued growth in mobile data traffic. In the Ericsson Mobility report (Nov 2016) [1], Ericsson predicts an increase of 10x the mobile data traffic by 2022 (see picture below). Which is equal to annual growth rate of 45%.


Video is the main driver for the growth and it is expected to be 75% of the traffic by 2020 [1]. C-RAN and the use of RRH and fronthaul is needed to increase the densification of the mobile networks to support this growth. Millimeter wave technology is now getting to the point where the speed and the total cost of ownership (TCO) is supporting the wireless fronthual business case for C-RAN. Looking at Sivers IMAs solutions we now make fully integrated mm-wave circuits in silicon germanium (SiGe) and use low cost WiGig modems that support beam steering and beam forming, which offers the possibility to use very low cost PCB type patch antennas for fronthaul wireless links. These patch antennas are currently under development by Sivers IMA together with Uppsala University in the recently founded project by Vinnova called “Smarter electronic systems” [2].

Anders Storm
Sivers IMA – Your partner for advanced mm-wave and microwave solutions.


WDM = fiber-optics, wavelength-division multiplexing

Ref [1] https://www.ericsson.com/assets/local/mobility-report/documents/2016/ericsson-mobility-report-november-2016.pdf

Ref [2] https://www.aktietorget.se/NewsItem.aspx?ID=78999

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