StarHub Pte. Ltd. ‘s packet backhaul architecture is among the most advanced in the world, although Asia/Pacific as a whole is not at the forefront of developments, according to a recent report from Heavy Reading.
The report — “Packet Backhaul: Carrier Strategies & Real-World Deployments” — suggests that packet backhaul deployment on a global basis is slow, but picks out StarHub as an example of a trendsetter because of its extensive deployment and unusual approach. (See Carriers Go Slow on Packet Backhaul.)
The need for packet backhaul on a global basis is being driven by the rapid take-up of 3G data services, particularly over HSPA mobile networks. StarHub, the second-largest mobile operator in Singapore, launched full HSPA services at the end of July 2007, and recently upgraded to HSPA+, which delivers 21 Mbit/s on the downlink and 5.7 Mbit/s on the uplink. (See StarHub Launches HSPA+.)
The report states that most of StarHub’s large urban cell sites are served by between 10 Mbit/s and 20 Mbit/s of capacity, but that the plan is to expand that to 60 Mbit/s or more during the next three years, a move that reflects the anticipated increase in data loads that the backhaul network will need to manage.
For HSPA, StarHub deployed radio infrastructure from Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. , which has integrated data interfaces for packet traffic backhaul. This negates the need for the added complexity of ATM or TDM pseudowires used by many operators deploying packet backhaul.
Heavy Reading estimates that StarHub uses packet backhaul for about 1,500 of its 2,000 live cell sites as of the end of April 2009. The carrier recently upgraded its mobile packet core infrastructure with technology from Nokia Siemens Networks to provide greater support for its growing volumes of data traffic. (See StarHub Deploys NSN Packet Core.)
Those that aren’t supporting packet backhaul are generally legacy GSM base stations that would cost too much to upgrade with packet backhaul capabilities, and which are still hooked up to E1 leased lines for backhaul.
The report’s author, senior Heavy Reading analyst Patrick Donegan, expects StarHub to migrate to an all-Ethernet backhaul architecture in the future.
StarHub aside, Asia/Pacific is not exactly leading the charge for packet backhaul, accounting for just 22 percent of deployments, and ranking third behind Europe and North America.
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