Total Telecom met with Svante Stenbom, sales director for Carrier Services at Avanti, to discuss the latest trends affecting the backhaul market

What are the key trends affecting the backhaul subsector of the telecoms industry? 

The most interesting trend for us is that MNO’s are looking at cost-effective ways they can extend their networks, especially in rural and remote locations.  The costs of installing new infrastructure in these areas is often financially unfeasible, however satellite backhaul comes with a number of benefits such as dramatically reducing these costs and integrating easily with existing network infrastructures. Our Smarter Backhaul solutions use the latest High Throughput Satellite technology, and our Ka-band services are not only ultra-reliable with 99.9+per cent uptime, they are also commercially proven by some of the world’s largest MNOs.  We have successfully delivered against a variety of MNO challenges, from enhancing network coverage and performance to meet regulatory obligations, supporting emergency services requirements, disaster recovery planning, and also helping networks manage seasonal demand peaks in holiday destinations.  


What challenges is the industry facing at the moment? 

The continued hunger for high speed data is driving huge levels of growth, with data consumption increasing by 50 per cent annually. That is of course a dramatic increase, but coupled with this increase in demand is the expectation from customers that they can access this data wherever and whenever they want to.  As a result extending network coverage to more remote areas is becoming more important, not just for the MNOs but also for some of the regulators across Europe.  Traditional network structures are only cost efficient up to a certain point. After this point the MNOs need alternative solutions to serve these areas at the most efficient costs.  With recent advances in satellite communications technology, many of these MNOs are now including satellite in their solutions.  In addition to network coverage and performance, one other challenge we are seeing is how MNOs can deliver the best user experience efficiently.  Satellite Backhaul can play a part in helping to achieve optimal network utilisation with the least impact on user experience.  


How are you helping your customers to overcome these challenges?

Recent development in satellite technology mean that the economics behind satellite communication solutions are really stacking up for MNOs now. High Throughput Satellite technology offers significantly increased reliability and capacity reducing bandwidth costs by as much as 70 per cent. With our Smarter Backhaul you can become a virtual network operator without any large initial outlays, as we have already built the infrastructure. Re-usable equipment allows flexible, rapid and multi-site deployment without the planning permissions required for your fixed infrastructure Installed satellite links from as low as €1000 per site ensure cost efficient and predictable capital expenditure

This is all leading to much more competitive pricing, and with lower costs per MB and per site, this allows MNOs to build solid business cases for multiple backhaul solutions.    


What challenges does 5G present in relation to backhauling? 

We don’t see challenges, only opportunities when it comes to 5G. Our Smarter Backhaul solutions are 5G ready, and whilst it is relatively early days for the network builds, like other generational technologies, our fast, flexible and reusable deployments can help to support and speed up the roll-out of network infrastructures.  This in turn helps our customers to gain first mover advantage, and the multiple business benefits that this can provide. Avanti are also leading the consortium on the SAT5G project, as part of the Horizon 2020 5G research and innovation project which looks to integrate satellite communications as an intrinsic part of 5G networks.  


Is the industry preparing properly for the arrival of 5G? 

Evidence is certainly showing that customer demand is there for 5G, and we are following the developments from some of our customers with great interest.  Saying that, we already provide 4G LTE backhaul solutions, for example our contract with EE/BT to connect over 1000 eNodeBs on our fleet of satellites across the UK, and see 5G as an extension of this rather than new technology.


What new markets are particularly interesting to you? 

We will be launching our latest High Throughput Satellite, HYLAS 4 in March of this year.  This is particularly exciting in that it provides tremendous growth opportunities as we enter multiple new markets right across Sub-Saharan Africa.However, with HYLAS 4 also bringing additional capacity to Europe, our European team are busy speaking to both existing and potential customers across the region about how they can benefit from this.  As our coverage increases throughout EMEA, we are seeing differing requirements between developing and developed markets.  Whilst MNO’s in developing markets are focussed on extending their coverage to get more subscribers, those in developed countries are using satellite to increase resilience.  As the first to deliver Ka-Band capacity across EMEA, Avanti have a wealth of experience in delivering numerous backhaul scenarios that are not only highly reliable, but integrate easily with your existing infrastructure.