Juniper Networks Inc. is making a push into wireless backhaul with a multi-access gateway appliance that can merge legacy transport technologies and push them over Ethernet alongside newer IP/MPLS networks.
By reducing the physical connections needed to stream multiple wireless technologies, and by doing it all over cheaper IP-based connections, Juniper hopes to cut wireless providers' cost-per-bit while upping capacity for newer data networks.
Juniper's BX 7000, available in the fourth quarter of 2008, accepts data from cellular inputs in a variety of formats, meaning it can take input from 2G, 3G and WiMax towers that are often collocated. That data is then sent via Ethernet over the service provider's backhaul until it reaches Juniper's new M-Series Circuit Emulation Physical Interface Cards (PICs). These then re-split the various protocols before finally sending them to the radio network controller or base station controller as appropriate.
Traditionally, 2G and 3G connections have run over separate lines that are often leased at great expense. Being able to consolidate all the connections from a cell site, which might have two or three types of antenna, and then route them over a relatively cheap T1 line throughout the backhaul, could mean serious cost savings.
"Bandwidth growth would force you to provision more and more connections to the cell site, but with the BX 7000, you can provision one carrier Ethernet or DSL connection to the cell site, and your bandwidth has gone up and your cost per bit has gone down," said John Stewart, general manager of Juniper's wireless business unit.
Ray Mota, president of consulting with Synergy Research Group, said Juniper has made a smart play with its first move onto cellular sites. "The cost benefits from a mixed site are very compelling," he said. "You can reduce your legacy by putting in next-generation models [on a piece-meal basis]."
Keeping backhaul costs down is fast becoming a priority for wireless carriers, as it makes up the bulk of their operating expenses, in some cases as much as three-quarters of their infrastructure costs. Any way to cut down those expenses would be welcomed by an industry facing declining voice revenues.
Mota said wireless service providers would likely deploy Juniper's new appliance, the BX 7000 Multi-Access Gateway, at select sites as they try to avoid the TDM and ATM wireless backhaul bottlenecks. Both of these older technologies that traditionally run on separate lines have limited bandwidth capacities. "It's important that carriers look at Ethernet and embrace it a little bit more because it offers cost savings," Mota said.
"It's very easy for mobile operators to say this is where Ethernet makes sense, in that I can take care of my congestion problem and give extra capacity [for less]," Mota said. Juniper's established presence in the telecom infrastructure will make this move easier for carriers to adopt the new technology, particularly as wireless providers initially test it in limited deployments, he said.