RAN Virtualization in 5G Network

What is Virtualization?

Virtualization means decoupling software from hardware, enabling mobile network operators to handle dynamic and challenging use cases, such as enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB), massive connectivity (mIoT), and ultra-reliable and low latency communications (URLLC).
It allows you to use a physical machine’s full capacity by distributing its capabilities among many users or environments.

What is RAN Virtualization?

Radio Access Network (RAN) virtualization is a key architecture concept in 5G and it provides the flexibility and scalability for MNOs.
A virtual RAN consists of a centralized pool of baseband units (BBUs), virtualized RAN control functions and service delivery optimization. With a virtual RAN, baseband modules are moved away from the site and to a data center.
As a result, functions of the BBUs can be implemented with virtual machines in a centralized data center. This provides intelligent scaling of computing resources while decreasing energy consumption and capital expenditure (CAPEX).

What is RAN Virtualization Forms?

Virtualization can be applied to different forms of the RAN:
    1.Spectrum virtualization.
    2.Hardware sharing.
    3.Virtualization of multiple radio access technologies (RATs), and virtualization of computing resources.

Spectrum virtualization allows the available spectrum to be utilized more efficiently by permitting multiple network operators to share the same spectrum.
Hardware sharing is of particular relevance for small cells in order to avoid massive over-provisioning.
The virtualization of multiple RATs allows simplified management of different RATs, each dedicated to different services and offering different quality of service (QoS).

The virtualization of computing resources is a new option that builds upon the idea of co-locating the processing resources of multiple BSs at a central processing center. While early implementations provided each physical BS with its own dedicated computing resources, which resulted in an over-provisioning of computing resources, more advanced implementations permit a dynamic reassignment of processing resources to BSs. 

Conclusion

A flexible Radio Access Network (RAN) is the cornerstone of 5G networks. The evolved RAN architecture, designed with cloud-native virtualization techniques, enables the RAN to flex and adapt based on usage and coverage.
This flexibility provides expanded and more convenient network location choices for the baseband processing. It offers a strategic differentiation by enabling the Remote Radio Units (RRUs) to interwork with the Virtualized Baseband Unit (vBBU) over a non-ideal fronthaul (i.e. ethernet), overcoming the traditional constraints of CPRI over fiber.