Sprint Nextel Corp. has issued a big request for proposal for fiber-based cellular backhaul, and AT&T, Time Warner Cable and Comcast Corp. are poised to grab most of the initial buildout.
Sprint, like other mobile service providers, has to better match backhaul bandwidth to the radio bandwidth its Long Term Evolution networks will represent.
Sprint isn’t saying how much of its $5 billion upgrade is tied to a backhaul upgrade, but its strategy will give cable operators an opportunity to expand their share of the cell backhaul market.
U.S. cable operators currently provide backhaul to seven percent of the nation’s 253,000-plus cell sites, representing about 18,200 sites, according to Heavy Reading senior analyst Alan Breznick. He estimates that Time Warner Cable has at least 7,600, followed by Comcast (6,000-plus),Cox Communications Inc. (2,000-plus) and Charter Communications Inc. (about 1,000).
Breznick says U.S. cable operators ended 2010 with about $200 million in cell backhaul revenues and expects that number to rise to $500 million this year as cable ops expand their presence to more than 25,000 cell sites.
Sprint to Place Big Backhaul Bet