by Richard MacKenzie, BT, and Andrew Dunkin, Vodafone, project group co-chairs

An Update from the vRAN Fronthaul Project Group

Posted on November 8, 2017

The TIP vRAN Fronthaul group was founded in May 2017 with the goal of creating an ecosystem and a clear path toward commercial deployment of a vRAN architecture. The group now counts more than 200 members coming from a variety of industry sectors and has achieved several key goals:

  • Defined several use cases proposed by major service providers facing technological and economic challenges that a virtualized RAN technology could address;
  • Defined the key high-level reference architecture and functional split for the RRU and vBBU vendors to build upon;
  • Demonstrated early proof-of-concepts in TIP Community Labs at Facebook and CableLabs, showcasing the feasibility and benefits of the vRAN architecture in a single-vendor environment. The group is now defining multi-vendor proof-of-concepts to be showcased in upcoming TIP Community lab locations.

Virtualization of the radio access network (vRAN) is a key architecture needed to make increasingly complex mobile networks easier to deploy and maintain. However, real-world deployments of vRAN technologies are blocked by the lack of both low-cost remote radio units and multi-vendor solutions that work over non-ideal fronthaul. Open interfaces for the link between virtualized baseband units (vBBU) and the remote radio units (RRU) will be key for enabling multi-vendor vRAN solutions.

Some of the key benefits targeted by the reference design that the project group has defined include:

  • Allowing for a multi-vendor vRAN solution
  • Data compression gains over the fronthaul relative to CPRI
  • A fronthaul load that scales with user traffic and is resilient to latency and capacity fluctuations

This will enable new use cases for a variety of fronthaul types, including DOCSIS ®, G.Fast, microwave, etc.

Plans are being developed for multi-vendor, commercial-grade proof-of-concept (PoC) deployments within TIP that will showcase the feasibility and key benefits of the architecture in real-world scenarios. The member companies involved in the PoC deployments include service providers, remote radio unit vendors, software integrators, and OEMs. They will be actively working to unbundle their solutions, integrate with the other vendors, and test their solutions with mutual interoperability as a key goal.

For more information on the vRAN Fronthaul project group, please see our page here. If you’re interested in joining TIP and the project group, you can register for TIP membership here