By Zia Askari | TelecomDrive.com
As India’s telecom operators continue to face “call drop” challenge, implementation of next generation cloud driven RAN technology or Cloud-RAN can help operators in terms of addressing this issue. Global telecoms biggies such as Ericsson and Nokia Networks are well on their way to deliver Cloud-RAN solutions.
As far as today’s scenario is concerned, it is all about delivering the right customer experience and a mobile network operator is continuously being evaluated by the quality of experience (voice quality and clarity) it delivers to its subscribers. While there is nothing wrong with this concept, at the network level, voice has taken a long back seat – while most of the revenue action is happening around monetization of data.
Next generation networks – 4G are being built keeping in mind the data potential and data growth. Consumption at the user level has also shifted from voice toward an exponential growth in data demand.
In addition, the vast majority of the data usage on LTE networks occurs indoors and hence operators need better data driven connectivity indoors. The outdoor, voice-centric strategy of providing broad but thin coverage from a small number of cell towers is no longer a long term viable proposition.
Until recently options have been limited when it comes to indoor coverage. The traditional solution is a distributed antenna system or DAS. In a DAS environment, a full macro base station connects to a network of antennas distributed throughout a building – delivering an increased coverage and capacity for telecom operator.
There is no doubt that DAS can be very effective, however it is a costly proposition and especially in a cost conscious country like India – it can be a big issue. In addition to the base stations, DAS requires coax or fibre optic cabling to push or transmit high-bandwidth radio frequency signals to remote antennas, plus intermediate gear to power and condition the signal. In such a scenario DAS becomes expensive to design, install and configure as well as maintain. Additionally, many DAS systems require expensive upgrades every two to three years to keep up with growing capacity and coverage requirements.
Say Hello to Cloud RAN
A new technology is emerging to fill this void: Cloud RAN, or C-RAN, small cells. In a C-RAN environment, the baseband processing is centralised, which allows multiple access points to act as a single continuous cell rather than as an array of competing cells.
In this respect C-RAN small cells are similar to DAS scenario with its central base station. However, C-RAN small cells cost less than half as much as upgrading a DAS to LTE.
A completely next generation-ready telecom infrastructure, Cloud-RAN, or C-RAN network architecture can potentially address growing capacity and coverage issues being faced by operators in a country like India, while supporting mobile xHaul (Fronthaul and Backhaul) solutions as well as network self-optimization, self-configuration, self-adaptation with software control and management through SDN and NFV.
Cloud RAN can also provide big benefits in controlling ongoing operational costs, improving network security, network controllability, network agility and flexibility.