Redesigning fronthaul and the road to 5G
5G is more than a new generation of technologies, writes Shawn Stapleton, the chief technology officer at Dali Wireless. It marks an inflection point for how we connect with the world today. It also promises instantaneous, high-speed data access to billions of users, devices, machines, buildings, and cities – each placing new demands on mobile infrastructure and sparking the need for a change in its design, starting with the radio access network (RAN).
To provide the different levels of performance, spectrum, latency, and power that various applications require, 5G disaggregates the RAN into different functions and employs a flexible, service-oriented protocol stack with centralised network control. Because of this, fronthaul, or the connection between these functions in the RAN, has become a critical component in delivering the vision of 5G we’ve been promised. Yet the current closed, proprietary, and point-to-point approach to managing the fronthaul network threatens this.
Making the industry’s vision of 5G a reality
To achieve the true benefits of 5G, the fronthaul network must also undergo significant transformation, as a multipoint-to-multipoint fronthaul network driven by software is needed. This approach lets any baseband modules be connected to any remote radio units, regardless of vendor, and over any protocol interface, thereby creating an environment where an interoperable and open Radio Access Network (RAN) can become a reality.