October 23, 2014 — The incorporation of small cells, DAS, remote radio heads and Wi-Fi (known collectively as HetNet) into mobile networks is bringing with it a heavy layer of complexity to the backhaul network and higher costs.
To deal with that, software-defined networks (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV) solutions are being use to provide greater backhaul flexibility and cost-savings. The key here is cost-savings. NFV addresses moving from an environment that is hardware-centric and porting it to software network architecture. NVF also facilitates fast times to market for products. NFV is a carrier-driven platform and they have a huge interest in it.
An iGR Research study released during the summer examines the cost savings, both capex and opex, that mobile operators can expect when moving to SDN, NFV or cloud radio access network (C-RAN) architecture.
“The RAN and evolved packet core (EPC) are slowly becoming applications that can run on off-the-shelf IT infrastructure hosted by data center operators and other third parties,” Ian Gillott wrote.
First, current architectures where the baseband units (BBU) are deployed at the base of the cell tower must change to an architecture in which the BBUs are deployed in one (or more) centralized data centers, according to iGR. Second, the baseband functionality itself should run in virtualized software on generic computing platforms.
“This eventual architecture would divorce the 1:1 ratio between baseband and RRH, and thus give mobile operators the ability to support the same number of cell sites and sectors on less hardware. This would therefore be a true C-RAN deployment in a commercial data center,” Gillott wrote.
iGR’s market study, “Cost Considerations for Centralized RAN and Cloud RAN,” can be purchased and downloaded directly form iGR’s website: igr-inc.com
Ernest Worthman is the editor of AGL Small Cell Magazine.
J. Sharpe Smith, AGL Small Cell Link editor, contributed.