Backhaul Boom Times

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By Ron Hendrickson

If a fella were looking for a growth industry to get into, cellular backhaul would be an excellent choice.

The mobile space is bustling, and that's expected to continue -- and increase -- for the foreseeable future. Consequently, cell backhaul is getting ready to practically explode. Recent news indicates that the numbers for all things mobile are trending high and to the right.

According to Infonetics Research, mobile broadband subscriber numbers jumped nearly 50% last year, up to 846 million, with the expectation that the numbers will reach 2.6 billion by 2016. The research house expects worldwide mobile subscriber numbers to pass 6 billion this year and approach 7 billion by 2016. And according to research from Strategy Analytics, sales of broadband-capable mobile devices increased 15% in 2011, up to 112 million units, continuing a growth trend of several years.

Cable operators themselves continue contributing to the traffic via "anywhere" services such as multiscreen video. Add all that to mobile Internet usage growth: Ericsson is predicting that 85% of the world's population will have mobile Internet coverage in five years, with about 9 billion mobile subscriptions in 2017.

And as if all those indicators aren't enough, even Walmart's (NYSE:WMT) getting into the mobile act. The mega-retailer has teamed up with TruConnect Mobile to offer a pre-paid mobile broadband service called "Internet on the Go." Customers can pre-pay for download chunks of 100 MB, 500 MB or 1 GB.

What this all adds up to is enormous and ongoing demand for cell backhaul. To be sure, not all of this expected traffic will travel on cell networks, but much of it will, perhaps even most of it. That being so, if you're not in the cell backhaul business, you might consider it. It looks like it's going to be growing for the foreseeable future.

Ron Hendrickson is BTR's managing editor. Reach him at ron@broadbandtechreport.com.

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