WHITE PAPER

AVIAT NETWORKS

THE CASE FOR LAYER 3 INTELLIGENCE
AT THE MOBILE CELL SITE

HOW TO BEST IMPLEMENT LAYER 3 INTELLIGENCE
IN YOUR NETWORK

SMARTER PERFORMANCE
MADE SIMPLE

WHITE PAPER

Mobile cell sites are transitioning from simple Layer 2
connected sites for voice and low-speed mobile data access
to multi-functional hubs for delivery of new services built on
Layer 3 intelligence. Existing Layer 2 based mobile backhaul
solutions make this transition difficult because regular
routers installed next to legacy microwave complicate cell
site configurations increase cost and add management
overhead. This white paper presents a new integrated cell site
architecture based on Layer 3 intelligence that promises to
transform the cell site and restructure the mobile backhaul
cost equation—making the new service-delivery cell-site
vision possible with fewer boxes and simplifying tomorrow’s
mobile network.

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THE EXPANDING ROLE OF THE
MOBILE NETWORK
In the past, mobile networks were built to

Moreover, capacity demands are driving

deliver voice services with data connectivity

new levels of network densification by

services as a secondary consideration.

leveraging small cell, Wi-Fi and Cloud-

Today’s mobile networks are being relied

based RAN (C-RAN) architectures. While

on to support mission-critical business

the densification “end game” is hard to

objectives, which are far beyond the realm

pin down, what is certain is the mobile

of basic mobile connectivity. New enterprise,

network needs to be flexible to support a

government, videoconferencing, social media

considerable amount of future uncertainty.

and mobile commerce services place growing
demands on the network in terms of capacity,
security and reliability. The mobile network
infrastructure must be flexible enough to
deliver a growing number of new services with
ease and cost effectiveness.

In summary, the cell site is undergoing
a transformation in order to meet
subscriber coverage goals and consumer
demand. Additionally, pressure comes
from the mobile network operators
(MNOs) and their desire to enrich service
offerings, lower costs and grow average
revenue per user (ARPU).

Increase ARPU via
New Services

Improve Subscriber Retention

Reduce Network CAPEX
and OPEX

Enterprise
VPN, enterprise access, enterprise
application acceleration

Performance
Improved network performance
for voice, video and data services
(including network densification)

Fewer Boxes
Common IP network infrastructure

Consumers
Optimized social media access,
M-commerce, Videoconferencing,
Security Services

Services
Specialized services increase
stickiness

Less Complexity
Simplified operations and network
management

Other
Public Safety, Government

Security
Security and privacy policies

Future Proof
Architecture to minimize ongoing
investments

Table 1: Mobile Operator Objectives

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THE MOBILE CELL SITE AS
A LAYER 3 CONNECTED
SERVICE DELIVERY HUB

Operators need to enrich their offerings to attract and
retain high value customers to offset the low ARPU for
traditional consumer-level mobile users. To support new
business initiatives, fast and flexible delivery of new services is necessary. This fact, combined with the pending
network densification, means the cell site must evolve.
The mobile cell site needs to evolve from simply housing
a base station to supporting a network architecture that
accelerates the delivery of new services to achieve business goals—the service delivery hub. IP is the only proven,
scalable, futureproof technology upon which to meet
these goals completely.

and at lower cost over a routed network. For example,
Layer 3 VPN services often provide the most flexible
solution for enterprise access and connectivity services—
especially as service requirements expand. Many of these
transport connections will terminate directly at the cell
site. On-site routed infrastructure can provide optimum
flexibility to support the full range of access services
including IP VPN, L2 VPN, VPLS, MPLS VPN, etc. to ensure
overall business objectives are met.

LOWER COST
Layer 2 is often believed to be a lower CAPEX solution,
but many times requires higher OPEX—especially as the
network changes and grows and new services are offered.
Traditionally, IP routers have commanded a higher price
tag due to the higher cost of the silicon chips they required.
However, newer technologies coupled with a highly soft-

LAYER 3 INTELLIGENCE:

ware driven paradigm and the fact that cell sites do not

THE ESSSENTIAL INGREDIENT FOR
CELL SITE TRANSFORMATION

need the same level of performance found in traditional

Traditional Carrier Ethernet (i.e., Layer 2) advocates

NETWORK DENSIFICATION

believe cell sites should be maintained at a Layer 2 (L2)
implementation, citing a lower cost and simpler network
infrastructure compared to Layer 3. IP (i.e., Layer 3)
intelligence at the cell site gives the operator flexibility to
support new scalable, high-quality services and the pending mobile network densification. Based on this, below are
some reasons why routers at the cell site are poised to
become the norm in future mobile network architectures.

routers makes routing at the cell site cost effective.

The network edge is constantly evolving, resulting in
today’s edge sites becoming aggregation nodes—where
IP and Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) are now
commonplace. In addition, the network needs to be
flexible to support the evolving network topology. Layer 3
intelligence makes it easier to change the network
topology (e.g., add a site, mesh to rings). With a mesh of
L2 connections, for example, operational complexities
can result in huge costs and slow the pace of the network

NEW SERVICE DELIVERY

evolution—meaning delays in new service offerings or

Many enterprise, government, videoconferencing and

improving network performance.

banking services can be delivered much more efficiently
COMPLEX, NON-INTEGRATED

Transport (MW, OTN, etc)

Cell Site Router

Enterprise
Services

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2G, 3G, 4G
Services

Small
Cell

Streaming, Video Conference,
Social Media, M-commerce

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BACKHAUL TRENDS:
WHAT OPERATORS SAY
ABOUT LAYER 3
NETWORK INTELLIGENCE

This sentiment goes hand in hand with the observation

In the last three years, research has revealed a lot

a proprietary study conducted by Aviat Networks in

about the changing intent of wireless network operators to deploy Layer 3 (L3) intelligent applications. In
many markets, and especially in emerging markets, a
plurality (42 percent) of operators see a need for Layer
3 functionality in access networks, according to a 2013
Heavy Reading report. Even more telling, in the same

that mobile operators consider enterprise services a
top strategic priority for growth.
Not only do MNOs see a role for L3 at the edges of
their networks but also private network operators. In
November 2014, survey results of non-MNO operators
in North America reveal that 66 percent of respondents
believed it is “critical” or “very important” to adopt IP/
MPLS technology within their networks. In addition, a
nearly unanimous number (92 percent) of survey respondents said end-to-end IP/MPLS provisioning was

report, a strong majority of operators (62 percent) said

“critical” or “very important.”

that it was “very likely” that MPLS—a leading L3 tech-

What all these L3 survey results share in common

nology—would need to be deployed in the aggregation
layer of their networks.
More recently in 2014, Heavy Reading research found
that mobile network operators (MNOs) see a new application for L3 intelligence. Specifically, 73 percent

is that operators of all persuasions believe that they
lack in-house experience to roll out L3 functionality.
Concomitantly, they feel they will need outside experts in order to implement the most highly intelligent
networks.

consider L3 “critical” or “very important” for delivering
new services to enterprises from current cell sites.

MULTI-SERVICE CONNECTIVITY
New services, and network densification means the emer-

HIGHER CAPACITY AND NETWORK
SCALABILITY

gence of a multitude of devices at the cell site. Many of

IP routers at the cell site enable the network to better

these devices are multi-service interfaces and many can

deal with capacity challenges. By having the intelligence

even include legacy interfaces such as TDM, ATM or even

to route around issues, routed intelligence at the cell site

FR/X25. Routers are the only proven solution to cost ef-

can have a great effect on capacity. When compared to flat

fectively converge multi-services interfaces onto a single

Layer 2 networks, routers scale to vast numbers of nodes,

low cost IP transport. Also, with the migration to LTE/

thus, giving flexibility to grow the network seamlessly with

HSPA+, native IP is the default transport technology.

a lower total cost of ownership.

SECURITY

X2 INTERFACE

Layer 3 intelligence at the cell site provides many security

The interface between eNodeBs in LTE architecture, X2

benefits. Because mobile security requirements continue

creates significant challenges for network architects.

to evolve, routers offer optimum flexibility (e.g., having

Carrying up to 10 percent of an eNodeB’s total traffic,

the ability to initiate and terminate IPsec) and the ability to

X2 has extremely low latency requirements and is a key

support ever-changing security requirements. Ultimately,

connection to support mobile handoff. When eNodeBs

ensuring both control and bearer channels are carried in

are on different subnets, a router is required to provide

the most secure fashion possible.

X2 connectivity and avoid storms of broadcast traffic. A
more scalable X2 infrastructure is achieved by supporting
router functionality at the cell site.
Cell site routers are an essential investment to support
the expanding role of the mobile network.

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ADDING LAYER 3 INTELLIGENCE TO LEGACY MICROWAVE
WITH REGULAR ROUTERS MAKES NETWORKS MORE
COMPLEX, LESS INTEGRATED
Despite all the benefits, the addition of the router adds

POOR FAILURE DETECTION AND RECOVERY

a completely new level of complexity to the transport

In the above scenarios, the router generally does not

network of microwave connected cell sites.
Routers can be deployed alongside a microwave indoor
unit in a split-mount microwave scenario or connected
directly to an ODU (outdoor unit) in an all-outdoor Ethernet

know what the microwave radio is doing in relation to
failure recovery. Separate boxes require complex
signaling/interworking that is not well coordinated.
Also, there is a lack of integrated failure recovery

scenario. In either case, routers are not well integrated

across all layers including the IP/MPLS layer.

into the microwave transport network, which can cause a

NON-INTEGRATED RF

host of challenges for operators.

The above options all involve Ethernet connections from

Key challenges are listed below:

the router to the microwave device, either baseband
unit or ODU. This is a departure from traditional micro-

MANAGEMENT COMPLEXITY
Separate devices, with different management
interfaces, create a multitude of operational challenges.
End-to-end configuration, provisioning, fault and
performance management can be difficult especially
in IP/MPLS configuration.

wave architectures—which have worked well for years
and represent 95 percent of all microwave deployments
today, where a microwave baseband unit is connected to
the RF unit with an intermediate frequency connection
over the COAX cable interface. With the router + Ethernet
RF unit options, the modem is in the ODU on the tower,

LACK OF DYNAMIC BANDWIDTH AWARENESS
The router does not have awareness into the microwave
radio’s link bandwidth. Without this knowledge, traffic engineering and L2/L3 routing become very difficult. In addition, Adaptive Coding and Modulation (ACM), which results
in dynamic reduction of link bandwidth, makes matters
worse. Network performance is drastically affected in the
above scenarios where routers are “flying blind” and not
aware of the actual bandwidth available in the network.

which requires a tower climb for any modem upgrades.
The multitude of protection options (e.g. 1+1, N+0, SD, FD)
gets extremely complex, and many configurations are not
supported. The cabling is also a challenge. Existing COAX
cable infrastructure cannot be reused, and many new
cables are often required (RJ45 Ethernet has limited distances so optical cables need to be run in addition). Power
over Ethernet (PoE) injectors are also generally required
often necessitating purchase, deployment and ongoing
maintenance of a separate box. In summary, the lack of
RF integration on these router + Ethernet radio configurations spells trouble for mobile network operator (MNO)
operations teams.

IF Connected
ODU

All Outdoor
Ethernet Radio

MICROWAVE
INDOOR UNIT

DUMB
ROUTER

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OR

DUMBER
ROUTER

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LACK OF INTEGRATED SYNCHRONIZATION,
SECURITY AND QOS

In the same way that consumer devices like cellphones

Router + Ethernet ODU solutions lack an integrated

and voice to create a more powerful “Swiss Army” knife

security policy across all layers and boxes. They also

device. The integration of microwave IDU, switch, router

lack automatic alignment of QoS policy across all layers

and TDM mux functionality in one device simplifies cell

leading to a complex operations effort to manage and

site deployments reducing installation complexity and

maintain end-to-end QoS policy. Also, because of the lack

improving network performance.

of integration, clock source change on router results in a
network wide microwave outage.

have integrated items such as cameras, video players,

SERVICE DELIVERY IS TOO SLOW
As the need that operators have for new revenue streams

TOO MANY BOXES

intensifies new services are deployed at faster speeds in

Unintegrated solutions currently deliver L2/L3 intelligence

the core of the network. Only to be delayed by the RAN

at the cell site using external routers. This means that ex-

deployment. A big part of this is the unautomated and

ternal boxes have to be separately configured, externally

labor-intensive deployment of backhaul.

connected and functionally tested, especially for solutions
from different vendors. The use of external boxes not only
increases management complexity, operational expenses
and energy consumption but also network performance
degradation. This is especially true if the router providing
L2 VPN or MPLS-TE functionality is not aware of underlying wireless fluctuations. These RF propagation fluctuations can lead the microwave equipment to run at lower
capacity (i.e., lower modulation), something of which the
L2/L3 equipment may not be aware. All these issues cre-

The use of an integrated nodal solution like the CTR
family with a single management interface that can
integrate L1, L2 and L3 aspects of the microwave router
can significantly reduce configuration time. This can be
complemented by using a powerful event driven platform
like Aviat OS (part of SmartNode) for automating network
functions. This kind of platform should be able to use a
scripting language to automate labor-intensive backhaul
deployments and reduce service delivery time.

ate a more expensive and inefficient solution.

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ADDING LAYER 3 INTELLIGENCE
WITH AVIAT SMARTNODE
THE INDUSTRY’S ONLY NODAL
MICROWAVE SOLUTION WITH
INTEGRATED LAYER 3 INTELLIGENCE

Aviat SmartNode features include:

SmartNode is a single split mount nodal system with

configure and upgrade. This is in stark contrast to outdoor

virtualized high performance radio nodes and integrated

radios that are independently managed entities having

Nodal Microwave
Being one single system, SmartNode is easy to manage,

IP/MPLS routing capability.
The SmartNode solution
consists of any radio (IRU
600, ODU 600, STR 600,
WTM 3300, etc) deployed

separate IP address and

Aviat SmartNode is the simplest,
smartest way to add Layer 3
Intelligence to your mobile network

with any router/switch
(CTR 8500, 8300, 8400, 8600 series models). Regardless
of the number of radios, or whether the radios are IF or
Ethernet connected, the SmartNode solution behaves as
one system with one IP address and one configuration—
just like a traditional split mount nodal microwave radio—
simplifying operations and lowering costs.

QoS configurations for each
device. These solutions
complicate operations
especially at nodal sites.

Integrated Microwave Router
Because of CTR’s Integrated L2 and L3 intelligence,
SmartNode reduces the number of boxes to buy, deploy,
and maintain. This results in faster and more efficient
service delivery and new revenue opportunities right from
the transport network. In addition, the system is media
aware all the way to Layer 3 so the routing protocols
understand what’s happening over microwave links for
better performing networks.

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SPLIT-MOUNT OR OUTDDOR R ADIOS +
REGUL AR ROUTER

SMARTER

MEDIA
AWARENESS
SERVICES
CAPACIT Y

PERFORMANCE
RELIABILIT Y

OPERATIONS

MADE SIMPLE
TCO

POOR

Microwave not integrated with L3

POOR

Separate devices required

EXCELLENT

Double header available today
(but tower climb to add channel 50% of the time)

POOR

AVIAT SMARTNODE

EXCELLENT

Adaptive media awareness common protocol across all devices

EXCELLENT

Implemented with fewer boxes, integrated

EXCELLENT

Meets today’s needs and evolves to future

EXCELLENT

50 minutes more downtime per site per year.
Unproven MTBF (double header)

No PoE injectors, no single point of failure.
Electronics inside—lower MTTR

COMPLEX

SIMPLE

Many separate devices to manage: multiple
management platforms, complex power
management, complex demarcations

Single virtualized device (1 QoS policy for entire node).
Single EMS

HIGH

SIMPLE

More boxes, complex operations, lower reliability.
40% higher TCO

Single Management Interface - Nodal Managment
Regardless of the number of radios and router/switches
at a SmartNode location, all assets can be managed with
a single IP address. This single user interface is a radical
departure from other solutions that require separate management solutions for the radio, L2 switch and routers.
SmartNode is an integrated solution for seamless operation and lower TCO.
Aviat SmartNode combines the proven advantages of nodal
microwave with the latest innovation of integrated microwave router, with support for both IF-connected ODUs and
Ethernet-connected ODRs, with built-in PoE.
Zero Footprint
For locations where indoor space is not available,
Aviat’s Zero Footprint SmartNode is available with
an outdoor CTR product.
As the network densifies, today’s edge sites will be
tomorrow’s nodal sites so with Zero Footprint SmartNode
not only do you get all the benefits of SmartNode in an
outdoor package but also future proof yourself for pending
network expansion.
Aviat SmartNode is SMARTER (service flexibility, media
aware), PERFORMANCE (high capacity, best reliability),
MADE SIMPLE (deployment and operations simplicity
and lowest total cost of ownership).

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Fewer boxes, simpler, more reliable