Of all the available backhaul choices for LTE macrocells and small cells, by 2018, sub 6GHz OFDM NLOS technology will become the most popular for “last mile” backhaul. Fiber-based backhaul will be the second most popular choice, where it is available, followed by millimeter wave and the traditional LOS microwave links.

“The large change in backhaul type we see from 2013 to 2018 is due to the very strong ramp of LTE small cells with the number of LTE small cells deployed exceeding that of LTE macro eNodeB’s in 2016 and reaching more than 2X the number of LTE macrocells by 2018,” says Nick Marshall principal analyst at ABI Research.

ABI Research’s new report entitled “LTE Backhaul, Fronthaul, and Flexihaul Considerations” discusses the impact on backhaul from LTE networks and includes LTE evolution to LTE-A and LTE-B, SON, synchronization, the X2 interface, and many other topics.

The influence of HetNets on backhaul is also discussed and thanks to the increased scale of a small cell network with dozens or even hundreds of small cells deployed backhaul becomes essential to avoid or minimize inter-cell interference and to avoid overburdening the macro network with signaling or data traffic.

“We found that SON is a key enabler for a successful LTE deployment, particularly when a small cell underlay is present, and that the increasing sophistication of SON in the upcoming 3GPP releases places strict latency and synchronization demands on backhaul,” continues Marshall.

The report also discusses fronthaul and describes the connections transporting data from the base station at a cell site to an RRH in CRAN architectures.

These findings are part of ABI Research’s Mobile Backhaul Research Service, which includes research reports, market data, Insights and competitive assessments.