The Problem with C-RAN is Fronthaul

Southeast USA at night: All these urban areas will need a small cell backhaul solution for LTE at some point. Will it be "fronthaul?"

Southeast USA at night: All these urban areas will need a small cell backhaul solution for LTE at some point. Will it be “fronthaul?” Photo credit: NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center / Foter.com / CC BY-NC

With the mobile telecommunications space facing an onslaught of data-hungry subscribers and their migration to LTE, operators have embarked on a quest to pack even more service in smaller and smaller service areas. The frontier of these smaller service areas have come to be characterized as small cells. The issue is getting communications into and out of these small service areas. Capacity, coverage and interference all need to be addressed. Some have proposed serving small cells via Centralized Radio Access Networks (C-RAN). To implement a C-RAN, one of the requirements is a newer concept that has come to be termed “fronthaul.”

In a June 2013 meeting of the Telecom Council, Aviat Networks’ chief technology officer, Paul Kennard, took on fronthaul and the challenges it presents for LTE, small cell and C-RAN. In his presentation, he weighed the advantages and obstacles of fronthaul. While the chief advantage of distributing Remote Radio Heads (RRH) around the cell can help alleviate coverage, capacity and interference concerns, it is not easy to reach these RRH locations with fiber in the mostly urban areas where this deployment scenario will be needed most. This is especially true of non-traditional implementation of small cells on light standards, signposts and other non-tower infrastructure collectively known as “street furniture.” Wireless backhaul solutions will continue to be necessary in the grand scheme of things.

More is available on fronthaul in the Telecom Council presentation below as is in an associated webinar.

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