As we approach the 5G era, mobile networks are rapidly evolving to next generation, virtualized, multi-vendor, future-proof, ultra-dense HetNets that are underpinned by state of the art fronthaul.
The next generation 5G RAN will leverage V-RAN in DAS, small cell, and macrocell networks to shift basestation functionality on a commercial off the shelf (COTS) server in a data center that occupies a small footprint, lowers energy consumption, and facilitates and simplifies network management and operation. Using the concepts of NFV and SDN, simplified and virtualized mobile networks will also lead to new innovative use cases and business models.
Although many network functions are being virtualized in mobile networks, one of the first areas that will see the RAN virtualized is in in-building and in-venue wireless scenarios. RF distribution systems for these wireless deployments are evolving rapidly to enable the concepts of a V-RAN architecture by building on top of and extending existing C-RAN topologies.
The RAN evolution to new spectrum in the mmWave and centimeter wave bands will raise new challenges in buildings and venues where the signal propagation characteristics at these frequencies will demand innovative antenna and signal processing to ensure the throughput demand is matched to the capability of the fronthaul.
Next generation fronthaul transport protocols coupled with baseband decomposition into real-time and non-real time functions will underpin the evolution to the 5G RAN. Network topology, fronthaul transport, spectrum and signal propagation, and antenna design are all among the challenges that will be tackled as in-building wireless moves into the 5G era.