#FutureofWirelessFriday – RAN Virtualization: Optimizing spectrum usage

January 15, 2016

We kicked off the #FutureofWirelessFriday series last week when we discussed convergence and how it can minimize network complexity. This week we will discuss RAN Virtualization and how it can optimize spectrum usage.

RAN Virtualization is one of the top 5 technology disruptors, according to ABI Research.  During a webinar with ABI Research, 45% of the webinar participants stated that RAN virtualization will be widely deployed in mobile networks in the next 2 years, and 55% believe this will happen within the next 5 years. Similar to the transformation of data centers through cloud computing, RAN Virtualization will allow mobile operators to optimize the usage of their most valuable resource – spectrum. We loosely refer to spectrum as “invisible gold” as spectrum, like gold, it is a finite resource. RAN Virtualization is set to simplify the increasingly complex telecommunications world.

RAN Virtualization can dramatically change the way mobile operators deal with the challenges of wireless capacity. The type of RAN Virtualization that goes beyond just virtualizing the baseband processing resources, but virtualizes the mobile operators’ most valuable resource – spectrum – as well. This is significant as spectrum accounts for more than 66% of the cost of the base station whereas baseband processing resources only accounts for approximately 33%.

Virtualizing C-RAN and RF Router

So what is RAN Virtualization? It’s through sharing a common pool of resources, so that any incoming data streams (cell feeds) of one or more base stations (2G, 3G, 4G and 5G in the future) can be routed to any connected remote radio units and their antenna points. In fact it’s the entire eNode Bs, including the baseband and the radio resources, and the mobile operators can freely route the capacity to multiple antenna points.

To dive a little deeper, RAN Virtualization ultimately breaks the bottleneck associated with the point to point relationship between the cell, coverage area, and its associated capacity by making it a multipoint-to-multipoint relationship. This enables mobile operators to save on operational and capital expenditure by having the flexibility and scalability to expand and allocate valuable radio resources to traffic hot-spots or hot-zones as required and on demand, minimizing Total Cost of Ownership of the network.

One of the biggest cost factors of wireless networks is the spectrum. Therefore, it makes sense to fully optimize the base station resources. Through RAN Virtualization, mobile operators are no longer bound to providing BTS resources per venue. One major difference is that the base station resources do not need to be physically co-located base stations, or commonly known as base station hotels. This is very significant as when more wireless capacity is needed, more base station resources can be added, while leaving the rest of the physical RF distribution network intact.

More importantly, available capacity can be dynamically allocated across different cell footprints. This allows a higher load factor, avoiding over provisioning and reducing the cost per Mbyte transported over the network. In additional to the savings in capital expenditures, mobile operators will also save on operational costs such as lease, air conditioning, power and others.

Through optimizing the usage of spectrum, mobile operators can stay competitive in this fierce wireless market. They will be able to provide greater value to win and retain customers, reduce production cost per megabyte, and be able to rapidly innovate and adopt new technologies and business models.

Stay tuned for next week’s #FutureofWirelessFriday where we discuss how Software-Defined Network (SDN) applies to the telecom market. Share any comments or questions by tweeting us @DaliWireless. To read our past blog entries, click here.

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