Evolution of the Fronthaul Interface with the Advent of 5G

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4Q 2020 | IN-5948


5G Radio Access Network (RAN) Architecture and Fronthaul Requirements


The fronthaul interface enables the communication and synchronization of the Baseband Unit (BBU) with the Radio Unit (RU). To date, multiple protocols have been developed and implemented in order to establish the communication over this link, such as Common Public Radio Interface (CPRI), Open Base Station Architecture Initiative (OBSAI), enhanced CPRI (eCPRI), Next Generation Fronthaul Interface (NGFI), and Open Radio Access Network (O-RAN) fronthaul protocol. Many of these have been designed to be open (e.g., CPRI) but became vendor-specific to achieve better performance, optimization, and efficiency.

With 5G, the fronthaul interface must support higher data rates due to higher bandwidth of the 5G spectrum and new antenna technologies, such as Active Antenna Systems (AAS) where a radio can have an antenna array of 64 Transmit and 64 Receive (64T64R). Therefore, in order to provide enhanced fronthaul link connectivity and leverage the functional splits of the 5G RAN, as defined by the 3GPP Release 15, the CPRI forum and the O-RAN Alliance have de…

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