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Wireless Cellualar Technology and Radio Access Network (RAN)

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(Tokyo City, Japan - Hsi-Pin Ma)
 

  

- 5G: More Capacity For More Devices

Existing cellular technologies are rapidly coming to their performance limits. This is due not only to the growth in data traffic and in the number of connected terminals, but also because we are on the verge of new era, where everyone and everything will be connected, with more demanding and varied requirements that cannot be satisfied by current networks. 

Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) worldwide struggle to maintain with growing customer demands towards 5G, and mobile data as the major use cases. There are three primary ways that MNOs can add capacity to their wireless network: buy more spectrum; make spectrum utilization more efficient by optimizing spectral efficiency; and densify the network, by adding more cell sites, while reusing available spectrum.

 

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(Photo: Princeton University, Office of Communications)

- Radio Access Network (RAN)

Cell phones use radio waves to communicate by converting your voice and data into digital signals to send through as radio waves. In order for your cell phone to connect to a network or the Internet, it connects first through a radio access network (RAN). RANs utilize radio transceivers to connect you to the cloud. Most base stations (or transceivers) are primarily connected via fiber backhaul to the mobile core network. RAN functionality is typically provided by a silicon chip residing in both the core network as well as the user equipment.

A radio access network (RAN) is part of a mobile telecommunication system. It implements a radio access technology. Conceptually, it resides between a device such as a mobile phone, a computer, or any remotely controlled machine and provides connection with its core network. Depending on the standard, mobile phones and other wireless connected devices are varyingly known as user equipment, terminal equipment, mobile station, etc. 

A RAN provides radio access and assists to coordinate network resources across wireless devices. Devices primarily connect to cellular network via LTE or 5G NR connections. Silicon chips in the core network as well as the user equipment (like your phone or laptop) help enable the functionality of the RAN.

As the mobile telecommunications industry barrels toward the 5G future, the amount of data traffic traversing networks is exploding. One of the ways MNOs are coping with the reality and the preparation for the further onslaught that will come with 5G is to transform the RAN. Which in essence, means centralizing it or placing it in the cloud.

 

- C-RAN (Cloud RAN or Centralized RAN)

AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile all of these companies will be taking advantage of a Cloud (sometimes known as Centralized) Radio Access Network (C-RAN) foundation that continues to be transformed over the years in preparation for 5G. C-RAN is a cloud-based architecture for radio access networks that supports wireless communication standards (3G, 4G, 5G, etc.). 

Nowadays, with the increasing number of mobile Internet technology, mobile network operators (MNOs) like AT&T, Verizon, etc. are faced with huge pressure on the increasing number of operating expenses with much less growth in their income. Such growth would require more and more base stations to support user needs which would be really expensive to deploy and manage. 

C-RAN is an innovative architecture that tries to meet such needs by centralizing the base stations and providing a cooperative solution between multiple operators. Such technology comes with minimal cost, high energy efficiency, and centralized network architecture that attracted a lot of attention in both academia and industry. As 5G is capable of transmitting petabytes of data, it is more cost-effective for MNOs when handling these large volumes of traffic to deploy centralized C-RANs, in addition to improving network performance via low-latency connections. 

A C-RAN architecture has three primary components - a centralized baseband unit (BBU) pool, remote radio unit (RRU) networks, and transport network or fronthaul. As the amount of data traffic on mobile networks continues to grow, MNOs are meeting the demands by adopting Cloud/Centralized Radio Access Network architectures (C-RAN). This approach to network architecture has two clear advantages: reduced Capital Expenditures (CAPEX)/Operating Expenses (OPEX) for operators and improved user experience through less interference.

 

- Edge Router

Edge routers are gateways that accept inbound traffic into your network. Edge routers work to secure the network edge and protect the core by characterizing and securing IP traffic from other edge routers as well as core routers. They differ from core routers in that core routers forward packets between routers to manage traffic and prevent packet loss, often using multiplexing. 

An edge router uses static or dynamic routing to send or receive data from other networks. Data transfer between the network and Internet or WAN edge typically use Ethernet, such as Gigabit Ethernet via copper or over single or multimode fiber optic. 

 

 

 

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