The year 2022 welcomed the roll out of 5G networks in most cities and first initiated by telecom operators like Jio, Airtel, and Vi. Unlike other cellular networks like 3G and 4G, 5G demands new levels of flexibility in scaling, architecting, and successfully deploying telecom networks. Cloud technology offers great possibilities to accompany the existing technologies in the RAN domain. C-RAN, or cloud-radio access network, is the optimal solution that integrate RAN functions onto a common compute platform instead of a separate purpose-built hardware platform.
In simpler words, C-RAN, also known as centralized RAN, is a suitable architecture for telecom networks that support 3G, 4G, 5G, as well as future wireless communication channels. As per a comprehensive report published by Research Dive, the global C-RAN market is anticipated to garner a revenue of $1,610.9 million and grow at a substantial CAGR of 10.4% in the 2019-2026 forecast timeframe. Considering this impressive growth rate, it is evident that the market is here to stay and develop further to cater to the world’s never-ending needs of faster networks and communication.
Now let’s explore more about the C-RAN architecture, its essential components, and its major advantages.
C-RAN Architecture and Its Important Elements
As stated earlier, C-RAN refers to realizing RAN operations over a generic assessing medium rather than imposing them on a specific purpose-oriented hardware platform. This cloud technology effectively manages the RAN application virtualization by utilizing some cloud-centric principles. Stating briefly, the cloudification begins with testing selected 5G RAN network functions in containers via commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware platforms.
Some primary components of the C-RAN networks are as follows:
- BBU Pool
The BBU, or baseband unit, is a centralized source that functions as a data processing center. It helps in stacking individual units by eliminating the need of direct linking and allocates resources based on network requirements. A BBU also improves communication between units by maintaining high bandwidth and lower latency. Moreover, functions like decoding and demodulation are also carried out by the BBU.
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- RRU Network
The RRU, or the remote radio unit, retrieves the radio frequency from the antenna and create analog transmitted radio frequency to the BBU. Unlike the baseband unit that handles digital processing, RRU handles look after the analog frequencies and also connects wireless devices to access points.
- Fronthaul or Transport Network
This is the connection layer between the baseband unit and a set of RRUs that uses optical fiber, millimeter wave communication, or cellular.
Advantages of C-RAN Networks
- Cost effective solution that uses less hardware
- Has lower cooling, heating, and power requirements
- Provides high spectrum efficiency
- Can reuse infrastructure
- Functions with faster speeds as compared to distributed RANS
- Supports a larger number of mobile users
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C-RAN cellular networks offer great benefits like improved performance, lower cost, and high spectrum efficiency, thus being the ideal solution for implementing futuristic wireless communication channels. Moreover, this architecture also enhances user satisfaction and resource utilization to successfully deploy advanced telecom networks.