Report: Mobile Operators Adopt C-RAN to Prepare for 5G and Reduce Deployment Costs

Increasingly, mobile operators are adopting centralized radio access network (C-RAN) as their preferred method of deploying new networks, with global spending on this technology expected to reach almost $9 billion by end of 2017 and CAGR estimated at about 24% between 2017 and 2020, SNS Telecom said in its recently published report, “The C-RAN Ecosystem: 2017-2030.” These investments will include spending on remote radio heads, baseband units, and fronthaul transport network equipment.

C-RAN—which was initially popularized by Japanese and South Korean operators—represents an architectural shift for RAN design, centralizing and aggregating baseband processing for a large number of distributed radio nodes, explained SNS Telecom in the report. Other Tier 1 operators in markets around the globe—including AT&T, China Mobile, Orange, Sprint, Telecom Italia Mobile (TIM), Telefonica, Verizon, and Vodafone—are now adopting it.

“In comparison to standalone clusters of base stations, C-RAN provides significant performance and economic benefits such as baseband pooling, enhanced coordination between cells, virtualization, network extensibility, smaller deployment footprint and reduced power consumption,” SNS Telecom elaborated.

Related to the general drive toward C-RAN adoption, SNS Telecom two sub-trends:

  1. Small cells deployment within a C-RAN architecture to leverage resource pooling and multi-cell coordination. This is especially popular for enterprise and indoor market segments. 
  2. Use of multiple baseband functional split options for C-RAN implementation, as a means of easing the transition to 5G and reduce fronthaul costs. 

SNS Telecom also noted that the vendor arena for C-RAN continues to consolidate, illustrated by merger and acquisition deals like the Mavenir Systems merger with Ranzure Networks, positioning the new combined organization as an end-to-end provider of 5G-ready solutions.

If implemented thoughtfully, C-RAN can help operators better manage interference and LTE-Advanced features like Coordinated Multi-Point (CoMP), and reduce total cost of ownership (TCO) for RAN deployments, SNS Telecom concluded.