What Is Backhaul? Meaning, Working, and Applications

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Written By Aditya Sharma

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Backhaul can be defined as the combination of copper, fiber, or wireless links that link the core (or backbone), networks to the smaller subnetworks towards the edge.

Users will not have access to the internet if they access the subnetwork. Its purpose is to expand network coverage.

This article will explain the meaning, how it works, and what its applications are.

What Is Backhaul?

The term "backhaul", which is used to describe wireless internet access, is often used. A backhaul is a way to make data communications faster. Backhaul is essential for users to have an internet connection. Backhaul is the connection that runs from the wireless cell site to the internet.

A telecom network that uses a hierarchical structure backhaul includes all intermediate connections connecting the network's central (or backbone), network to the smaller subnetworks.

This is why backhaul is often used in both technical and commercial spheres. It refers to the part of the network that connects with the internet. You can buy wholesale access to a core network site such as an exchange point.

Sometimes, middle-mile networks can be found between the local network (LAN), of a client and these exchanges. This could be a wide-area network (WAN), link. Both the internet service provider (ISP), and the high-speed web are connected to the middle mile infrastructure.

While backhauls can theoretically be used anywhere, they are most commonly deployed in a mobile network. Backhauls transport data between mobile devices and base stations. The backhaul of a network is responsible for connecting a cell tower to the network infrastructure.

Also known as a mobile backhaul, it is responsible for transferring data between base stations and mobile devices. This goal can be achieved using two main approaches: fiber-based backhaul or wireless point–to–point backhaul.

Many other technologies are being phased out in preparation for their eventual demise as capacity and latency requirements in 5G LTE networks and 4G. Technologies such as satellite communications, point-to-multipoint wireless, and copper-based wireline are all being phased out to make way for newer technologies.

How Does The Backhaul Look?

The most basic function of the internet and all other data networks is to route information. This function isn't always easy. Network segments are:

  • The access network links the endpoint devices with the network.
  • Data distribution to secondary networks is the responsibility of the primary network.
  • The backhaul network is a link between the core network infrastructure, the access network, and vice versa.
  • Backhaul is the link between access nodes (or the core network) and the access nodes.

A collection of mobile phones can communicate with one cell tower to form a local subnetwork. The backhaul connection to ISP's backbone serves as the point of intersection for all connections that exist across the cell site and around the globe.

Depending on the situation, this backhaul connection could be made with cables, fiber optics, or wireless components. You might find microwave bands, mesh network topologies, or edge network architectures within the wireless sections. The backhaul can also use a high-capacity wireless channel to transmit data packets between the cell tower and the microwave or fiber connections.

Planning a backhaul network requires consideration of several factors. These include the desired data transfer speed (often called bandwidth), and the time it takes for data to travel between locations (also known as latency). Backhaul can have an impact on speed, reliability, flexibility, and dependability. These are all traffic requirements that have a significant impact on end-user experience.

What Are The Types Of Backhaul?

Several types of backhaul can be distinguished. Some of these can be further divided into different categories.

1. Wired Backhaul

This type of backhaul transmits data over wired lines, as the name implies. The vast majority of backhaul activity takes place over wired connections. These connections are typically fiber-optic networks, but can also be older copper-based T-1 lines. Fiber-optic systems outperform copper when it comes to transmission of voice, video, and data traffic. This is explained in detail by a closer look at certain subcategories.

Copper Line Backhaul: At one point, copper-based backhaul was the dominant technology. Copper-based backhaul is centered around the T1/E1 protocol. It allows data transfer rates between 1.5 Mbps and 2 Mbps. Fiber has replaced most copper lines.

Dark Fiber Backhaul is the main source material for wireless network operators. This capability allows them to set up their services and operate their networks. They can also achieve the performance levels that they require. Black fiber can be rented to wireless carriers as specialized fiber pairs. These typically include anywhere from two to twelve fibers. The fiber is then "lit" by wireless carriers using their optoelectronics.

Ethernet Backhaul: Ethernet backhaul is a transport service based on fiber. It allows wireless carriers to increase their network coverage by securing last-mile connections. Ethernet circuits with backhaul, which have large bandwidth capacities and can be fully controlled by network service providers, are available for sale. This backhaul type is widely used by businesses.

2. Wireless Backhaul

Wireless spectrum allows for the transmission of audio, video, and data traffic via microwave connections. This is also known as fixed wireless backhaul or wireless backhaul. A microwave dish is usually installed by wireless carriers on top of a cell tower to provide a backhaul. A microwave dish is a type of antenna that can be used for point-to-point data transmissions.

Wireless backhaul that uses microwave technology to reach remote locations is more effective because they require less bandwidth. Because microwave technology isn't able to handle the high data traffic demands in densely populated areas, such as urban/suburban areas, this is why.

Wireless backhaul uses licensed wireless spectrum, particularly the millimeter wave bands, to transmit sound, image, and data.

3. Satellite Backhauls

Satellite backhaul can be used in remote areas, such as distant rural areas, and sometimes by MNOs as an emergency or temporary measure. This backhaul type is considered niche (for example, in a disaster area or a microwave link zone while waiting for license approval).

Backhaul is used in these cases and all other markets. It serves a complementing role. This technology has a 150 Mbps downlink and a 10 Mbps uplink. Latency is a problem because geostationary satellites have a delay of approximately 500-600 milliseconds to complete a round-trip.

4. Wi-Fi Backhaul

Wi-Fi backhaul allows tiny cells to be assisted by the network's core. This is done by placing a small cell, also known as a femtocell, in the customer's residence to allow wireless connection services within and outside their home.

Wi-Fi backhaul is an alternative way to connect customers who live outside of the house. It allows wireless services to be delivered in areas that aren't within the coverage area of a wireless provider.

Instead of connecting to a cell site via a wired Ethernet backhaul, the access point's gateway device (also known as an access point) provides the infrastructure for a Wi-Fi backhaul. These access points can be deployed remotely and offer cellular connectivity services to the network's perimeter.

Wi-Fi backhaul allows wireless carriers to increase their network coverage and capacity while also making them more economically competitive. Wi-Fi backhaul can be used where traditional dark fiber or microwave connectivity is not available or too costly to provide.

Fronthaul vs. Backhaul

Fronthaul refers to the portion of the cellular network that is responsible for the front-end interface. The back end of the cell system, also known as the backhaul is what is responsible for the interface between the fronthaul and the voice/data channels.

The term "front haul" is used in the context of the C-RAN architecture. It refers to the transmission of traffic between the BBU (central baseband unit) at a cell tower and a tiny cell. This unit is also known as a remote radio head (RRH). Fronthaul allows wireless carriers to deploy and manage fully-featured base stations or cells without the need for management. The carriers can use removable radio and baseband elements.

Here is how the front haul and backhaul work together: at the core, there are mobile switching centers (MSCs). Data is sent to the BBU via the backhaul. It can be either copper or Ethernet lines. The BBU is the starting point for the fronthaul. The common public radio interface (CPRI) allows users to receive their connections from RRH.

How Does Backhaul Work?

You can break down the backhaul operation as follows:

Backhaul allows the transportation of sound, image, and data components from a wireless carrier’s mobile base station, or cell tower, to the carrier’s mobile switching center (MSC), or other central exchange points. Transmission is then shifted onto a wireline telecoms network. Backhaul is also used to refer to the process of moving traffic from a mobile base station to a cell tower.

Backhaul multimedia traffic can be done using three transport modes: optical fiber, microwave (through the wireless spectrum), and legacy copper connections. While connections made using copper and fiber are wire backhaul, connections that make use of microwaves are wireless backhaul. The mobile switching center (MSC), is where wireless carriers can install their internet routers and voice-switching equipment. These connections transmit voice, audio, and other content to MSC.

Backhaul is possible using fiber connections wherever feasible, especially in densely populated urban and suburban areas. Many microwave connections can be used to extend service to remote, isolated, or difficult-to-reach locations (e.g., ski resorts, mountainous regions, and islands).

Fiber optic networks link most cell towers in developed countries, including the United States and Britain. In developed countries, however, the use of copper backhaul lines is much less prevalent than in developing markets such as Brazil and India.
The backhaul is a transport network that connects the mast/access station (cellular base station), to a core network. The core network hosts the majority of computing resources.

Cell towers can be linked together (rather than in a straight line) using a circle of fiber optic cable. In this circle, several masts are connected to form hubs. This network is designed to provide redundancy. It can be replaced if one network goes down. These rings are followed by fiber-optic cables that connect to all cell towers.

  • Backhaul transport is the transportation between fixed-line fiber optic infrastructure and wireless cell towers that anyone calls. The following steps would be followed if a user makes a phone call.
  • By using the radio frequency spectrum, mobile phones transmit their signals to an antenna atop a cell phone tower. This wireless transmission takes place.
  • The base station at the cell tower converts radio waves from the spectrum into backhaul.
  • The signal is transmitted via a backhaul (like fiber) to market-level aggregator stations.
  • Traffic is then consolidated and delivered to the core network infrastructure.

The network then transforms the call signals received from the backhaul into a format that is understandable by the spectrum at another base station. The network then uses a cell tower available to reach the new user.

Who Are The Backhaul Customers?

Backhaul services are used by wireless carriers, fiber providers, government agencies, and other entities. Verizon is one example of a wireless provider that has outsourced large amounts of its backhaul needs in certain locations.

Backhaul service providers who are bulk consumers include suppliers of fiber optic Internet services. Backhaul is an alternative to installing fiber if they have to connect to towers too far away or too costly to reach by fiber.

Finally, public agencies such as emergency response networks, municipal-level organizations (like schools, hospitals, and city municipalities), and privatized mobile networks all rent backhaul equipment.

What Are The Backhaul Critical Applications?

The demand for backhaul services stems primarily from the global rollout of 5G and the continued rise in mobile video content. This is causing a rise in demand for high-capacity connections.

Backhaul is vital in almost every area of connectivity, especially the ones listed below.

1. Facilitating Greater Public Connectivity Within A Metropolitan Area Network (MAN).

Many cities use metropolitan area networks (also known as MANs) to connect their areas. These cities use these networks to distribute a high-bandwidth Wi-Fi network throughout their area. Even if subscribers or users do not have cable installed at their homes or offices, they can connect to the network. Because of the wireless backhaul, they can depend on this network for reliable connections at locations like parks, shops, and streets.

2. Securer Operations

Backhauls can be used by organizations to increase the security of their operations. Monitoring networks can keep an eye on criminal activity but may lose the link at crucial moments. Wireless backhaul can be used to strengthen this link and allow last-mile aggregation. It is possible to connect directly to the internet without the need for intermediary steps. These wireless networks are capable of transmitting thousands of data channels, and allow data, voice, and video throughput. They are efficient and unfettered.

3. Supporting 5G’s Rise

5G is the most important and expansion-focused wireless backhaul. 5G backhaul architecture, which can be wired or fiber-optic, or wireless, provides many opportunities to increase broadband access for wireless carriers as well as their clients and private companies that work with 5G networks. Both the private and public sectors have these opportunities.

4. Mobile Networking Problems Solved

Several changes are happening in networks that will lead to fresh challenges for wireless carriers and Mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs ). One of these issues is the provision of up to 100 times more capacity. Another is the management and densification of 5G networks. Many of these problems can be addressed and solved by backhauls.

Particularly, backhauls are essential in the deployment and management of additional cellular sites with increased capacity, lower latency, and the ability to manage multiple services. Operators can minimize their dependence on fiber availability by designing, identifying, and purchasing new cell sites.

5. Strengthening Private Networks

Private networks are rapidly becoming the preferred way to provide broadband access to the industrial Internet of Things (IoT), environment as well as corporate campuses and other institutional settings. The demand for bandwidth is high from enterprise applications, multimedia traffic, as well as fundamental intra- and cross-organizational communications. The architecture of private networks includes backhaul, also known as transmission networks.

6. Modernizing Critical Infrastructure

Critical infrastructure users have extremely stringent requirements and need their connections to work at all times. Examples of critical communication users include public health and safety service, utilities, transport firms, and other specialists.

Mission-critical networks that are currently available are built on digital technologies that are specialized in voice and bandwidth.

Despite all this, critical infrastructure is experiencing rapid change. Many public safety groups are looking into 4G and 5G technologies. Both require backhauls for proper functioning.

FirstNet, Emergency Services Network (ESN), and SafeNet in Korea are some of the first examples worldwide of public safety broadband networks.

Takeaway! What Is Backhaul?

Backhaul is a network component that works in the background, without the user being aware. They are fundamentally responsible for shaping internet experiences, especially on mobile networks and devices. Last-mile connectivity becomes more crucial as 4G evolves into 5G and then 6G. It is crucial for organizations to fully understand and use backhaul.

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