Published   Wireless Watch

Cloud RAN deployments and key trends 2014 to 2021

Cloud RAN will become an integral part of Operator strategies

“By 2018, about 40% of the world’s cellcos will have C-RAN deployments in relevant areas, but three-quarters of these will be using a hybrid architecture which combines C-RAN and traditional techniques. The main reasons will be to reduce reliance on fiber and to preserve investment in older technologies. Hybrid C-RANs will often make use of base station hotels rather than virtualizing all the base station functions in the cloud.”

Virtualization of carrier networks is becoming a mainstream strategic choice for many operators, usually based around the ETSI NFV (Network Functions Virtualization) specifications. They are looking for ways to use their spectrum and capacity resources more efficiently and flexibly, as well as to reduce capex and opex bills. For these reasons, they are turning to architectures which decouple the network functions from the hardware.

Instead of deploying dedicated appliances to support particular functions, they are implementing those functions in software, as virtual network functions (VNFs) which can run on off-the-shelf hardware. This hardware may be localized, or increasingly the VNFs will be centralized in the cloud, either the telco’s own cloud or outsourced to an external provider. In many cases, operators are planning to implement software-defined networking (SDN) in parallel with virtualization.

This can address a key challenge for telcos. At all layers, networks are provisioned at perhaps 40% capacity to allow for peaks of usage. That has led to successive waves of technology for dynamic resource allocation and for virtualizing various functions so they can share network capacity in a flexible way. Deployments have mainly focused, to date, on relatively discrete functions like the evolved packet core (EPC) or security gateway, which can be virtualized without having to rework the entire network or risk disruption to established systems. In the case of EPC, many projects have enabled a new virtualized core specifically designed to support a new service, which has the double benefit of avoiding risk to the main mobile core, and improving ROI by allowing a new service to be launched cost-effectively.

The Cloud RAN forecast included in this report is based on research on the top 40 international mobile operator groups, which account for 80% of the global mobile subscribers (IMG-40). From this representative group of operators, the macrocell and metrocell forecasts are developed.

These forecasts were based on a combination of data from:
• Detailed surveys, interviews and operator-by-operator modelling of the IMG-40 groups.
• Studies of the deployments and strategies of the top 100 4G operators, as tracked by Rethink Technology Research’s quarterly surveys, interviews and desk research.
• A survey of 25 tier one operators about their detailed plans for RAN deployments to 2021.
• Input from ecosystem vendors on shipments, technology strategies and competitive landscape, also updated quarterly.

Based on the surveys of operators and vendors, it was then calculated how those cell sites would be equipped – by base station type, technology, frequency band etc, leading to a detailed unit and market size measurement.

For more information contact:

Chloe Spring (Marketing Manager): [email protected]

Office Phone: +44 (0)1179 257019

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Table 1    –  LTE and multimode macro and small cells total installed base (sites)
Table 2    –  LTE and multimode macro and small cells total deployments and upgrades (inc software upgrades)
Table 3    –  New site deployments managed by centralized or virtualized unit
Table 4    –  Installed base of sites managed by centralized or virtualized unit
Table 5    –  New centralized/virtualized macro site deployments by region
Table 6    –  New centralized/virtualized small cell site deployments by region
Table 7    –  Total new deployments of sites managed by centralized or virtualized platform
Table 8    –  New deployments of centralized units supporting macro vRAN
Table 9    –  New deployments of centralized units supporting small cell vRAN
Table 10  –  Virtualized or centralized macro site deployments by type of central unit
Table 11  –  Virtualized or centralized units by architecture, all vRANs
Table 12  –  Small cell end site deployments in a centralized or virtualized RAN, by architecture
Table 13  –  Fronthaul links for virtualized RAN by technology
Table 14  –  Percentage of operators at different stages of vRAN deployment, by year
Table 15  –  Key MNO barriers to deploy vRAN
Table 16  –  Key MNO drivers to deploy vRAN