While cellular network architectures have evolved from 3G to 5G, cell sites have also undergone substantial changes from RAN (Radio Access Network) to D-RAN to C-RAN models.
C-RAN architectures take equipment from the base of the tower and centralize it elsewhere to serve multiple sites. This reduces the physical footprint at the tower and provides other benefits related to equipment monitoring and service.
It has been expected that C-RAN will become the cornerstone of 5G networks that are currently rolling out and expanding infrastructure in the U.S. and around the world. The reason for this is because of the sheer volume of data traffic that will be accompanying 5G buildout.
One of the ways network operators are coping with the reality and the preparation for the further onslaught of data that will come with 5G is to transform the radio access network — which basically means centralizing it or placing it in the cloud.
A C-RAN architecture has three primary components — a centralized baseband unit (BBU) pool, remote radio unit (RRU) networks, and transport network or fronthaul:
- BBU pool — The BBU pool, located at a centralized site, functions as a cloud or a data center. Its multiple BBU nodes dynamically allocate resources to RRUs based on current network needs.
- RRU network — The wireless RRU network connects wireless devices similarly to access points or towers in traditional cellular networks.
- Fronthaul/transport network — Using optical fiber communication, cellular communication or millimeter wave (mmWave) communication, the fronthaul is the connection layer between a BBU and a set of RRUs, providing high-bandwidth links to handle the requirements of multiple RRUs.
Carriers believe the benefits of C-RAN are substantial, including lowering the total cost of ownership (TCO) while improving network performance. It is particularly beneficial in low-latency network scenarios.
The centralized cloud RAN architecture also provides the benefit of not requiring a rebuild of the transport network.
Want to know more about C-RAN? Tonex offers C-RAN Training, a 2-day course that covers C-RAN principles, architecture, components, planning and design of cloud-RAN applied to 4G and 5G mobile networks.
Additionally, Tonex offers 20 more cutting edge 5G Wireless courses with titles like:
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