Demystifying Cloud RAN Architectures

Imagine a wireless service provider can provide service anywhere there’s Internet connectivity at the click of a button. All they need is a small remote radio connected to the Internet. The baseband modems no longer reside at cell sites, but are hosted in data centers where powerful commercial servers execute all the functions of todays base station baseband units. The remote radios can even be self-deployed by the mobile subscribers. The service provider would have full control of the service features which can be configurable on the fly. Sounds like science fiction to some, but this is what virtualization of the radio access network aims to achieve.

No wonder then that the term Cloud RAN which meant centralization and virtualization of baseband became an overused term to denote all types of architectures. We live in the world of Anything as a Service (XaaS). Which investors would put money now in a hardware company? Read more of this post

C-RAN and the True 5G

5G Cloud RANWhile people may debate what 5G will be, there are a few key facts that cannot be changed. These facts will shape what 5G will be. Based on this we expect that new winners will emerge who can capitalize on new trends through innovating new solutions. Therefore, aside from the hype that dominates 5G talk, the key is to peel the layers that shroud the fundamentals. Over the last three years of researching the potential for Cloud RAN (C-RAN), I saw all the traits of a disruptive technology lurking in the background (2014, 2015). But with 5G, I think this can all change, and C-RAN will bolt to the foreground in more than one way. Read more of this post

Edging Closer Towards Disruption in Radio Access Networks

Cloud-RANIn past articles [1, 2], I stressed that Cloud RAN is a disruptive technology. There are a few reasons for this, but I think that most critical reason is that Cloud RAN breaks open a pricing structure that’s been in use ever since the wireless industry was created. The current pricing model for base stations is based on a tight coupling between hardware and software that is impossible to separate. So, when a network operator buys a base station, the operator selects how many frequency carriers each sector would support and a corresponding number of remote radio heads. This model becomes obsolete in Cloud RAN where the hardware and software are decoupled. There is no longer a 1:1 relationship between baseband modules and RRHs due to pooling and virtualization. New pricing schemes are now possible as there is more room for operators to optimize the subsystems they need in the network. Cloud RAN not only decouples hardware from software, but also changes the coupling among hardware subsystems. This has profound implications on the future cost structure of wireless networks and operators have taken notice. OEMs looking to challenge the position of the primary entrenched incumbents are leading the charge in Cloud RAN development with a vision to increase their market share. Read more of this post

Mobile Edge Compute, The Threat of OTT and Changing Infrastructure Architecture

OTT ThreatThe threat of over-the-shelf services (OTTs) to wireless network operators is well established, but as of yet, there is no clear answer as to how mobile network operators (MNOs) can ward off the OTT threat. This is evident by eroding margins where many large MNOs are now standing in the 30% EBITDA margin range, down from around 50%. The introduction of data service have eroded earnings as operators went into a high capex spending cycle to upgrade networks to LTE and meet anticipated capacity demand. MNOs also embarked on aggressive strategy to acquire new spectrum for the LTE networks which is perhaps best exemplified by the recent AWS-3 auction valued at $44.9 billion. All the while, MNOs have failed at capturing much additional value from the services they provide. The path to increased profitability will have to come from a combined effort to reduce cost while at the same time increase revenues. Finding such a formula is not straight forward and various attempts taken by MNOs to ward off the threat of OTTs have so far largely failed. Read more of this post

Cloud RAN Promises to Shape Future Wireless Networks

Wireless Cloud RANWe have released our annual Cloud RAN report with new insights and analysis on the development of this market during 2014. Cloud RAN is certainly gaining in interest in the operator community. This is due to practical reasons related to cost savings that can be realized first by the process of centralization and then by the virtualization of the radio access network. In our analysis of this market, we took a quantitative approach by analyzing the business case for different deployment scenarios (macro cell, HetNets) in different markets (Asia, North America), to determine a plausible evolution and market potential for Cloud RAN. The findings were extremely interesting as they exposed where Cloud RAN makes sense and under what conditions and use case scenarios. This is critical as Cloud RAN has impact on a number of other mobile network solutions such as small cells and distributed antenna systems (DAS). Read more of this post

Trends in Wireless Network Densification

Small Cells - Network DensificationOne of the main trends in radio access network (RAN) is the bifurcation of systems that enable network densification. Today, mobile network operators have more options than ever before for the means of providing service to their subscribers. Alongside the evolution of wireless standards to provide higher spectral efficiency, vendors have unleashed a wide variety of radio access nodes. While the macro cell remains the workhorse, small cells, distributed antenna systems (DAS), distributed radio systems (DRS) and Cloud RAN (CRAN) are systems that will see increasingly wider deployment in the future. Given this, what are some of the trends that we see in this space? Read more of this post

The Coming of Cloud RAN

Cloud RANThe evolution of wireless communications has spawned many innovations but the cellular concept where base stations are dispersed to meet coverage and capacity requirements remains constant. This is about to change, sort of, if Cloud Radio Access Network (CRAN) architecture lives up to its vision. What makes CRAN such an interesting development is that it leverages advances in a number of different fields to pull together a solution to two perpetual problems facing network operators: cost reduction and increased capacity. Read more of this post