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Why Cloud RAN is Crucial for 5G Networks

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5G technology is much more than what you think it is. It’s the next generation of mobile and wireless communication networks and an evolution from 4G LTE. It integrates a wide range of services with flexible radio interfaces, including integration with WiFi. By 2026, the world’s mobile data traffic is expected to reach a market value of 220.8 million terabytes per month, thanks to the rapid spread of 5G.

A 5G network facilitates human-to-human and human-to-machine communication. It even powers machine-to-machine communication services. We refer to this as the Internet of Things (IoT), including, for example, smart cities, self-driving cars, drones, robots in the manufacturing industry, etc. 

The IDC predicted a couple of years ago that by 2025, there would be 55.7 billion connected gadgets and devices, three-fourths of which would be connected to some IoT platform. It also predicted that the amount of data generated by IoT devices could reach 73.1 zettabytes by 2025.

A 5G network can send and receive data at much faster speeds. This makes it possible for new applications, super-connectivity, more data traffic, and better bandwidth. It allows higher mobility; for example, we can have reliable communication with high-speed trains. 

It’s also super reliable in the case of autonomous cars and much more energy-efficient. The global wireless infrastructure market is anticipated to grow from $202.43 billion this year to $427.43 billion in 2029, at a CAGR of 11.27%.      

5G Network Deployment – Leap to Advanced Digital Connectivity 

The shift from 4G LTE networks to 5G networks means there will be a greater focus on wireless connectivity, higher data accessibility, low latency, and higher connectivity speeds. Boosted by the benefits of 5G, the average traffic per user is expected to surpass 13.3 GB per month by the end of this year. 

To overcome high data traffic demands and the challenges that come with them, network providers want to bridge the gap in the market with the help of cloud RAN and better support 5G network deployments. 

What is cloud RAN?

With the evolution of wireless cellular generations over time, and the requirements for 5G, one of the enablers of these requirements is the use of radio access networks (RAN).    

All of the goals we’re trying to reach by using an architecture like CRAN are based on the limitations and realities of the physical layer when it comes to meeting capacity and performance goals in a 5G network. Cloud RAN, also called CRAN, is a relatively new radio access network (RAN) technology that carries an infrastructure that is based on centralized cloud computing. 

Before Cloud RAN came into the picture, special embedded hardware was used for RAN network deployment. With the help of CRAN, the functions that would take place on such hardware get virtualized. It also makes it possible for enterprises to use the same infrastructure to run other cloud-based apps. 

Components of the Basic CRAN Architecture

Three main components comprise a stable CRAN architecture: RRH or RRU entities, the baseband, unit pool, and fronthaul or transport network. 

  1. RRU entities
    An RRU entity is made up of a wireless network that, like traditional wired networks, connects other wireless devices. 
  2. Base Band Unit Pool
    A Base Band Unit (BBU) pool is incorporated at a central site, such as a data service center. There are multiple BBU nodes that store and process information in a very efficient way and are responsible for doing this on the fly. 
  3. Fronthaul or transport network
    The fronthaul is what connects all the layers between RRU entities and BBU pools and provides high bandwidth rates for meeting different network requirements. Fronthauls usually use optical fiber technology, which is ideal for creating effective cloud RAN infrastructures, especially for 5G networks.

Overview of CRAN System Structures

The cloud RAN infrastructure can be classified into three categories, depending on the requirements. Here they are:

  1. Fully centralized 
    A centralized CRAN architecture processes all MAC and layer functions into BBU pools, where the BBUs manage and process all resources, thus providing for easy operation. 
  2. Partially centralized
    In a centralized CRAN structure, physical layers are taken care of by RRU entities, and MAC or network layers are looked after by BBU pools. It reduces excessive overheads and eases the computation process of the Cloud RAN architecture. 
  3. Hybrid centralized 
    In a hybrid CRAN structure, physical layers are taken care of in part by the RRU entities and the BBUs. The RRUs are in charge of cell-specific tasks, and the BBUs are in charge of energy and communication costs. 

Did you know?
The market for cloud RAN services is predicted to grow by a whopping 22.7% between 2020 and 2027. The increasing demand for extensive networks and bandwidth capacity, along with lower OPEX and CAPEX, is driving the CRAN market’s growth.  

Building Tomorrow’s Network: Role of CRAN in 5G Networks

The CRAN infrastructure appears to provide the capabilities necessary for the cost-effective and dependable deployment of 5G networks across the globe.

The various components and structure formats allow the Cloud RAN to be optimized in the most suitable manner to meet network needs and ensure smooth operations at all stages. CRAN can play a vital role in the global deployment of 5G, and the journey can be looked at in these five steps: 

  1. Evaluation 
    It involves deeply analyzing all the hardware components, RAN applications, and cloud servers that will be used for setting up the CRAN architecture. For deployment to work well and go smoothly, all applications must be compatible with each other and with the platforms already in place. 
  2. Virtualization
    It is a relatively low-risk starting point for flexible and distributed edge placement.
  3. Cloud-Native Realization
    It lets the centralized and user planes scale independently, which helps with the flexible deployment of networks. 
  4. Cloud-Native Realization of DU
    It manages the challenges faced around server selection, cloud infrastructure, power efficiency, and security.
  5. Introduction of Cloud-Native SMO
    Incorporating RAN programs for further innovation and the foundations of network deployment. 

Did you know?
There is likely to be a significant rise in the need for indoor deployment of cloud RAN, at a CAGR of 29.1%, between 2020 and 2027. With the increase in the number of mobile users, the demand for CRAN network architecture will also jump. 

Key Benefits of Cloud RAN Structures

The cloud RAN infrastructure can help set up and build out 5G networks all over the world. With its essential components and structural flexibility, CRAN can be optimized to meet various network requirements and innovations within cloud-based applications for network deployment. 

The CRAN infrastructure’s reliability and cost-effectiveness can be valuable for 5G networks. Here are some major benefits to look at: 

  1. Cost-Effective
    Incorporating CRAN is cost-effective for network deployment due to the flexibility offered within its infrastructure. It helps reduce overheads and Total Ownership Costs as it allows for the distribution and optimization of its structure to meet different deployment needs.
  2. Suitable for Low-Latency Needs
    The Cloud RAN architecture is suitable for low-latency needs. It means networks can be deployed with high bandwidth rates, giving users high-speed network coverage on wireless networks. With low latency, data transmission and processing are becoming more convenient and easy to optimize for different requirements. 
  3. Support for Cloud-Based Platforms
    There is a potential to reuse the infrastructure, RRU and BBU pools, and other sourced technologies and further utilize them to support cloud-based platforms, technological assistance, and other requirements that can boost network deployment conveniently. 
  4. Collaborative and Flexible
    CRAN structures are collaborative and flexible, allowing network operators to implement RAN applications alongside other operations for smooth network deployment. Such application of the Cloud RAN architecture also enables network operators to innovate and offer new and reliable services to their users.

Did you know?
Over the next three to five years, the rise in the adoption of cloud-based deployment by end-users will offer considerable opportunities to the CRAN market. The market value for Cloud RAN services is expected to cross $43 billion between now and 2032. 

Cloud RAN in 5G Networks – the Promising Road Ahead

The global CRAN market is projected to witness revenues of $1,611 million and grow at a CAGR of 10.4% between 2019 and 2026. With Cloud RAN, it will be possible to support 5G network services with technology that is both reliable and safe. 

There will be more chances for network providers to make services that customers like and to easily meet all of their network needs.

STL provides up-to-date technological advancements that support 5G network requirements globally for modernized and highly effective cloud RAN solutions. It gives network providers the tools they need to set up networks in a high-quality way and opens up new ways for 5G networks to grow. 

Get in touch with STL today to find out more about the ways it can help with fiber optic deployment.

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