OpenRan's 2nd Mile: Considerations for an Efficient 5G Fronthaul
Since the first commercial launch of 5G services in 2018, 5G's momentum has ramped up. According to GSMA, by the end of September 2020, there were over 100 commercial 5G networks launched worldwide with several Mobile Communication Service Providers (CSPs) achieving nationwide status. With all these milestones, 5G will still have to coexist with 4G for several more years.
4G accounted for 52% of mobile connections in 2019 and will increase to 56% by 2025; meanwhile, 5G will roughly take 20% share.
In this paper, we examine a crucial element of the RAN which is not currently addressed by the OpenRAN standardization efforts – the fronthaul network. Current OpenRAN definitions mention and standardize the fronthaul interface between the radio and Base Band Unit (BBU) but do not address the fronthaul network in detail, especially the various brownfield and converged network scenarios which every operator must deal with. We bring out the need to consider efficient fronthaul solutions to mitigate specific challenges in RAN evolution.