Published On: Mon, Mar 2nd, 2020

Understanding VRAN

The Radio Access Network (RAN) constitutes the second most expensive part of the mobile network after spectrum. The global RAN market has been dominated by a few vendors, primarily Ericsson, Huawei, Nokia, Samsung, ZTE and until the last few years has largely escaped the networking shift to virtualized solutions.

With Virtual RAN (VRAN, also called Open RAN), virtualization proposes to open up the vendor-specific products to allow multivendor solutions for the antenna, radio and baseband signal processing, potentially lowering costs and widening the ability to deploy the VRAN solution into new markets and applications. Opening the RAN enables new architectures called splits that separate the baseband signal processing functions into multiple units (RU, DU, CU) opening new transport options.

The market for Virtual RAN sees a lot of hype, but how well is VRAN really understood? VRAN is a complex technology with strong players working to influence the direction and development of Virtual RAN and Open RAN solutions. Vendors are trying to either protect their turf or enter into the largely closed market. Operators, including AT&T, Verizon, Telefonica, Vodafone and others, are trying to influence the development and VRAN standards.

From Facebook’s TIP involvement, the Open-RAN Alliance, Small Cell Forum and 3GPP there are over a dozen split definitions requiring complex calculations to determine bitrate and latency requirements. What is VRAN?

The report Understanding VRAN simplifies the nine main 3GPP splits, describes the strengths and weaknesses of each, and highlights the transport requirements to support 5G VRAN.

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