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Implications of changing a small-cell from fibre to radio backhaul link

Level 1: Joiner
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In the last few weeks, the nearest cell to me, which like most in London is a small-cell, has changed its connection to O2's core network via fibre to radio link to another mast nearby. Since then, although full signal is still achieved over 5G, data speeds have dropped from 170-250Mbps average to 14-40Mbps average because similar to microwave link in rural architecture, meshed cells suffer from severe degradation in backhaul link speed, much how the radio signal we receive from them experiences the same. This also severely increases latency, which has increased from 10-15ms average to 28-34ms average - reflecting similar quality loss experienced with satellite links.


Whether this is a temporary change or not is unclear, but such a rapid drop in service quality defies advancements in technology and the purpose of a 5G network. While it is difficult in urban cities to provide a strong and superfast connection due to usage strains and population density, removing existing wired architecture to the core network which allows for a pretty decent quality of internet is taking a step back. I can't believe this would be purely due to cost savings. Has anyone in London generally noticed a decrease in their service or have problems with speed in general over 5G?

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Level 76: Forum Legend
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Seems to me that a RAN solution, if implemented correctly, should be able to achieve similar (data) bandwidth capacity to fibre - otherwise, as you say, what's the point?

Maybe your cell has been swung a little with the recent storms, have you alerted O2 to the poor speeds you are getting by using the Network Status Tool (on o2's website, or downloadable as an app from your phone's app store), @BakerstreetGB?

Guide: How can I sort out my network issues? contains a link to the online tool.

Meantime, this easy-to-read article helped me get straight in my head why I'd want radio or microwave back-haul over fibre back-haul.

I live out in the sticks, so cannot comment on your q for those in London. Hope you get back to the speeds you are used to soon 👍

Message 2 of 5

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There are various factors to take into account. A "meshed" cell implies others are also relying on the same link nearby as well, which means in addition to environmental degradation, bandwidth becomes more restricted when one cell being used to share the backhaul become heavily congested by multiple feeds.


My conclusion regarding the switch to wireless connection is that they have removed wiring from the cell to the street cabinet. Whilst I don't predict a direct cost saving strategy, it would seem to be an agreement shift with Virgin or Openreach, whichever they still use.


I can assure that my measurements of service decline are accurately reflective, based on the same location and even signal strength - but as we know, signal strength to the cell itself is only one factor of service quality, but also core network backhaul link arrangement. Such a drastic reduction in maximum throughput cannot possibly, especially since on a consistent basis ever since, be blamed merely on the cell in question. Subscriber congestion would typically occur on a segmented basis and still wouldn't reduce consistent speed to such a lower level, without changes to backhaul connection.

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Level 77: Grand Master
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This could be a temporary solution whilst works are carried out on putting in Redundant backhaul links provide by VM Business, Openreach or even C&W , so rather than take a site off line, they have put in a Microwave Link. 


Bare in mind also that these works can take a while due to restrictions in certain parts on central London to dig up roads until all works are complete in and around the CrossElizPurp Line. 

I know through who I work for (which isn't o2) that there is new infrastructure planned for the Tottenham Court Road / Oxford Street area, and large enterprises are contributing to that cost. 


o2 wont direct wont discuss there infrastructure plans direct with consumers. 

- Xperia 1V - o2 and Spusu
- Pixel 8 Pro - o2 and Vodafone UK
Message 4 of 5

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I don't think they use microwave for meshing the urban cells which are on street posts etc. since you need line of sight for that. I think they are using another wireless technology to share bandwidth but the speed indicates it's something that is highly inferior or the mast being used to share backhaul is sharing with other neighboring cells too. Unfortunately there is no right of complaint as you're paying for airtime and not service speed like the same protections given to broadband customers but that doesn't mean in reality we should be receiving a HSPA or less type speed when they promote their network as supporting 5G and is the signal I am receiving while suffering from low speeds.

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