RAN Compute architecture for distribution of radio functions

As operators begin the heavy lift of building out 5G, Ericsson has made major updates to its radio system and transport portfolio geared toward increased deployment flexibility in the push toward ultra-dense networks.

In a discussion with RCR Wireless News, Ericsson’s Nishant Batra, senior vice president and head of network products, highlighted the complexities of 5G build out, including small cell deployment, backhaul, fronthaul, RAN centralization and distribution of compute to serve low latency applications. “We’re looking at every possible tool in the toolkit,” he said.

Ahead of Mobile World Congress Americas next, the network infrastructure vendor announced:

  • The RAN Compute portfolio, including new baseband and RAN processors;
  • Spectrum sharing software to smooth the interworking between LTE and 5G;
  • And “Street Macro” radios with integrated microwave transport.

Small cell densification creates opportunities and challenges around fronthaul and backhaul. On the former, Batra outlined regional variation in operator approaches. “In certain countries like Japan fronthaul is absolutely necessary…because of the site congestion. We haven’t seen so much fronthaul in mainland Europe but we see some in dense urban cities. In the U.S. we see fronthaul now emerging.”

As it relates to backhaul, Batra said the combination of small cell and millimeter wave frequencies, require a new approach. As network equipment goes up on rooftops, utility poles, lamp posts and the like, “If those assets are going to be used, it needs a completely new backhaul mechanism because you don’t necessarily have line-of-sight to run microwave and you don’t always have fiber to these sites.”

The Street Macro integrates radio and microwave backhaul technology that Batra described as “not traditional. We’re looking at microwave technologies that cater to higher throughput and shorter distance.” Specifically the 60 GHz and 70 GHz bands and a range around 150 meters or less.

Another major trend covered here is the move toward edge computing wherein functionality typically associated with a large, centralized data center is pushed out to reside closer to the end user in support of low latency applications coming with 5G.

Asked whether the charge to the edge would be led by operators, webscale players or neutral host providers, Batra said the issue is “to be concluded. If you look at the edge now we’re debating basically who puts the capital in the industry to build out a distributed edge. For us, what we see, is there is immense interest on the operator side. It’s not an obvious answer. It’s a lot of money to be made, but it’s also a lot of money to be invested.”

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