What is the difference between 4G C-RAN and 5G C-RAN?

5G networks will use Distributed Radio Access Network (D-RAN) and Centralized/Cloud RAN (C-RAN) architectures.

Although 4G C-RAN, which physically separates Remote Radio Heads (RHH) from their Baseband Units (BBU) hosted into a centralized location, was essentially closed and proprietary, 5G C-RAN is moving to a more open, increasingly cloud-based architecture based on open standard interfaces.

5G introduces the midhaul network, which interconnects a BBU that is disaggregated into a Central Unit (CU) and Distributed Unit (DU), using the 3GPP F1 interface.

Source: Ciena

The industry’s goal is to make xHaul (fronthaul, midhaul, backhaul) networks open and standards-based, allowing MNOs and wholesale operators alike to benefit from increased solution offerings, rapid technology innovation, broader and more secure supply chains, and lower costs due to increased vendor competition.

A key benefit of open, standards-based xHaul is the ability to converge traffic onto a simpler common wireline infrastructure, making it more cost-effective to own and operate. Converging existing 4G fronthaul and backhaul traffic onto a common transport network offers economies of scale and further network simplification.