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The Fusion of Fronthaul and Backhaul

Toronto City Hall, Canada
(Toronto City Hall, Toronto, Canada - Wei-Jiun Su)

- Fronthaul

Radio equipment, including Remote Radio Units (RU) and Remote Radio Heads (RRH), is fundamental in wireless infrastructure. With mobile traffic demand projected to grow exponentially over next few years, networks are being designed to deliver a greater number of connections, as well as higher bandwidth per connection.  

To support these objectives, 5G is expected to drive radio bandwidth >10x. The number of radio units deployed is also expected to grow substantially. In terms of the antenna configuration, from current 2x2 MIMO format, 5G will see all the way to 64 x 64 MIMO for millimeter wave radios.

Due to the diversity of spectrum/frequency and capacity, even LTE radios are built in a wide range of form factors, interfaces, frequency bands and power levels. With 5G, we expect to see even more diverse deployment scenarios for radio units. Some of these variations will re-format Remote Radio Head / Unit (RRH /RRU) designs from the LTE era, while others may take a form of an Active Antennae Unit / System (AAU / AAS).


- Backhaul

Mobile backhaul refers to the transport network that connects the core network and the RAN (Radio Access Network) of the mobile network. Recently, the introduction of small cells has given rise to the concept of fronthaul, which is a transport network that connects the macrocell to the small cells. Whilst mobile backhaul and fronthaul are different concept, the term mobile backhaul is generally used to encompass both concepts. Furthermore, innovations to reduce demand on mobile backhaul sometimes involve architectural changes in the antenna and the controller. 

5G is introducing several new features such as enhanced coordinated multipoint (CoMP), dual connectivity (X2 and eX2 interfaces) and carrier aggregation that will make radio access networks (RAN) more complex to construct. Together these changes will put greater demands on the transport network and have a disruptive impact on the optical network architecture to better accommodate these requirements.



[More to come ...]


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