Cable Companies Relieve Overloaded Wireless Networks

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News Posted: Tue, Mar 9 2010 9:46 PM
As smartphone use has increased, we've seen more and more instances where wireless networks get jammed as data-hungry users attempt to surf the Web and perform other tasks from their handhelds. These wireless carriers could soon get relief from a somewhat unexpected source—cable companies.

Time Warner Cable is trying to sell wireless carriers such as AT&T and Verizon Wireless on a service that uses its underground cables to carry mobile calls and Web downloads. This service would ease the load on the wireless carriers' networks and help to avoid some of the jams. The service is known in the industry as wireless backhaul. After revenue tripled last year, it has become the fastest-growing business for Time Warner Cable.

When mobile calls are made, a signal travels over radio waves to an antenna. The backhaul system pulls this signal from the antenna into a wired network. During high-demand periods, carriers can add capacity by adding lines to the backhaul pipes.

“Backhaul is the first line of defense in addressing the capacity pressures on wireless networks,” said Craig Moffett, a Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. analyst in New York who has followed the telecommunications industry for more than two decades.

According to Bernstein, Apple's iPhone eats twice the capacity of other smartphones. This strains AT&T's network. In December, AT&T wireless chief Ralph de la Vega admitted that New York and San Francisco are particular trouble spots. Time Warner Cable currently has backhaul lines in place that could serve New York. Comcast is the major cable company in San Francisco.

Sadly, backhaul alone won't solve the crunch; there can still be congestion while the signal is traveling from tower to tower in the air.

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Inspector replied on Tue, Mar 9 2010 11:18 PM

Interesting, i would love to see how this works out, my current iphone connection is way slower then when i got it and sometimes don't even load -.- I'm trying to load HH and only the header pops up :(

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rapid1 replied on Tue, Mar 9 2010 11:45 PM

It works rather simply really. The backhaul lines are already in place on many towers as a ground link. It takes the call/download/gps/web session from air transmission, and runs it through ground lines. Then the major data traffic specifically is through the ground lines and it can transmit from the tower over the air with the increased bandwidth availability. In the current 3G space the over the air traffic does not really consume tons of space because 3G transmission is actually very slow anyways.

The kicker here is that the already in place telephone network is way slower than a cable network with less availability as well as space on it. When this started the only people who had linkable lines in the areas was widely telecommunication transmission wires. Not to mention it was not really needed and was just meant as a backup for which standard phone wires were enough. This is not the case especially with smartphones full web availability not to mention GPS etc etc.

This is a very simplified explanation, but I imagine you can get the general meaning with it. A cable network is a big closed network with more capable wiring. So bandwidth is much more manageable, not to mention a closed network works point to point rather than everything using and receiving from one in a more wide area rather than closed network protocol.

As I mentioned this is nowhere near the exact explaining of this, but a wide generalization of it. IN case of the iPhone look as the data as a river and over the air transmission as a dam, whereas on a cable network you just have a river with loads of bandwidth. While it may in time take bandwidth from the cable network they can just allow more bandwidth to the needed areas much easier than a phone wire can do the same. If all communication lines were fiber that would be the best because it has more bandwidth than cable as will gigabyte fiber over current standard fiber.

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realneil replied on Wed, Mar 10 2010 8:50 AM

Another provider in the 'loop' will have to be paid. Seeing as though the Wireless carriers don't/will not want to give up even a small portion of their income, it will be passed onto the consumer in the form of higher gouging.

Wheee!

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acarzt replied on Wed, Mar 10 2010 2:10 PM

Uhhhh.... Wasn't Time Warner already complaining about bandwidth issues themselves? And trying to make US pay for there problems?

Hmmm... if they've got so much extra bandwidth that they thing they can take on an entire wireless carrier then what the hell are they complaining about?

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rapid1 replied on Wed, Mar 10 2010 11:35 PM

As for bandwidth I am pretty sure the complaining was just to make them sound more favorable to customers. I don't know there true amount of coverage either I have never looked at how many users or the landmass they cover. I have of course never subscribed to anyone but either Cox or Comcast for cable either.

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