C-RAN (cloud radio access network) is a centralized, cloud computing-based architecture for radio access networks (RAN) that enables large-scale deployment, collaborative radio technology support, and real-time virtualization capabilities.
It is an evolution of the current wireless communication system and uses the latest common public radio interface (CPRI) standard, coarse or dense wavelength division multiplexing (CWDM / DWDM) technology and millimeter wave (mmW) transmission for long distance signals.
The “C” in C-RAN can alternatively stand for centralized or collaborative. It was first introduced by China Mobile Research Institute in April 2010 in Beijing, China, and is now getting a hard look in the U.S. as a way to manage the expected exponential usage of new 5G broadband.
Although still in development in the U.S., the amount of data traffic traversing networks is exploding as telecommunications air toward a 5G future and the onslaught of case use that will accompany it. One of the ways network operators are preparing for 5G broadband is by transforming the radio access network, which in essence 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.
The BBU pool is normally located at a centralized site and functions as a cloud or a data center. Its multiple BBU nodes dynamically allocate resources to RRUs based on current network needs.
The wireless RRU network on the other hand connects wireless devices similarly to access points or towers in traditional cellular networks.
Using optical fiber communication, cellular communication or millimeter wave 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.
The C-RAN is believed to have a number of benefits, such as:
- More cost and footprint effective due to less hardware
- Produces higher spectrum efficiency
- Has lower heating, cooling and power requirement
- Uses cloud computing open platforms and real-time virtualization to allocate shared resources between BBUs dynamically.
- Has the ability to pool resources or reuse infrastructure
- Creates a more simplified, scalable and flexible network
Want to learn more about C-RAN technology? Tonex offers C-RAN Training | Cloud-RAN Training, a 2-day class that covers C-RAN principles, architecture, components, planning and design of cloud-RAN applied to 4G and 5G mobile networks.
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