Wireless heterogeneous networks (HetNets) are a cost- and an energy-efficient alternative to provide high capacity to end users in the future 5G communication systems. However, the transport segment of a radio access network (RAN) poses a big challenge in terms of cost and energy consumption. In fact, if not planned properly its resulting high cost might limit the benefits of using small cells and impact the revenues of mobile network operators. Therefore, it is essential to be able to properly assess the economic viability of different transport techonolgies as well as their impact on the cost and profitability of a HetNets deployment (i.e., RAN + transport).
This paper first presents a general and comprehensive techno-economic framework able to assess not only the total cost of ownership (TCO) but also the business viability of a HetNets deployment. It then applies it to the specific case study of a backhaul-based transport segment. In the evaluation work two technology options for the transport network are considered (i.e., microwave and fiber) assuming both a homogeneous (i.e., macro cells only) and a HetNet deployments. Our results demonstrate the importance of selecting the right technology and deployment strategy in order not to impact the economic benefits of a HetNet deployment. Moreover, the results also reveal that a deployment solution with the lowest TCO does not always lead to the highest profit.