C-RAN to Propel Major Mobile Performance Gains, Heavy Reading Finds
NEW YORK -- The concept of C-RAN – which stands for both centralized RAN and cloud RAN – is emerging as a critical enabler of "true 4G" services and future, even higher-capacity mobile networks, according to a major new report from Heavy Reading (www.heavyreading.com), the research division of Light Reading (www.lightreading.com).
C-RAN & LTE Advanced: The Road to "True 4G" & Beyond analyzes the C-RAN opportunity and the challenges the industry must overcome for the technology to emerge as a mainstream next-generation radio access platform. The report also explores some emerging C-RAN use cases and focuses on innovation in mobile fronthaul, an important enabler for C-RAN.
The report also identifies 21 C-RAN technology leaders that are leading the market and explores operator and vendor perspectives on C-RAN.
"C-RAN has two primary objectives: better system performance and a lower cost of deployment and operation, relative to today's mobile network topologies," notes Gabriel Brown, Senior Analyst with Heavy Reading and author of the report. "The technology will enable the network densification needed to meet what appears, at times, to be an almost inexorable increase in demand for mobile data capacity."
To improve system performance, mobile operators fundamentally have only three levers to pull: increasing the amount of spectrum in use; improving the spectral efficiency of technology; and spatial re-use of spectrum. The C-RAN concept pulls each of these levers in concert, Brown explains. "Coordination of radio resources within a given spatial zone through a centralized processing architecture is the core strength of C-RAN and is why the technology is viewed as strategic by its supporters in the mobile networking sector."
Key findings of C-RAN & LTE Advanced: The Road to "True 4G" & Beyond include the following:
C-RAN technology is tightly linked to the interference management and spectral efficiency features of LTE-A. In the context of hyper-densification of the access network, arguably, C-RAN and "true 4G" need each other. Features such as cooperative multipoint processing (CoMP) should perform better (and/or be easier to implement) at scale in a C-RAN environment than one dependent on an external X2 interface.
The need for point-to-point fiber between remote radio units (RRUs) and baseband units (BBUs) is the Achilles' heel of the C-RAN architecture. This is balanced by lower costs associated with other aspects of C-RAN, such as the ability to reduce cell site costs related to civil works, lease fees, power consumption and maintenance. Once fiber is in place, the C-RAN model becomes much more attractive.
We expect the first commercially deployable C-RAN systems to be available from 2016, but it is hard to see broad commercial adoption much before 2020. We currently view the probable C-RAN timeline as follows: 2013-2014, proof of concept and trial systems; 2015-2016, first commercially deployable systems (or larger trial systems); 2017-2018, standard commercial systems offered by vendors; 2019-2020, commercial systems broadly available.
C-RAN & LTE Advanced: The Road to "True 4G" & Beyond costs $3,995 and is published in PDF format. The price includes an enterprise license covering all of the employees at the purchaser's company.