Radio access networks (RANs) are in spotlight nowadays with an increasing number of service providers trying to virtualize it as they start the transformation of the networks for 5G. With a plan to extend virtualization to RANs, companies like Nokia, Intel and Verizon are putting efforts to bring virtual RAN into a function for the Internet of Things (IoT) and 5G use cases.
A key difference between traditional RAN and virtualized RAN is that the latter allows the separation of hardware and software. It enables the service providers to launch new services and products at faster rate. It adds the much-needed agility and flexibility to the network and at the same time brings down the expenditure of deploying and management of the network. Further, vRAN empowers the service providers with the ease of network management.
Similar to network functions virtualization (NFV), which lets operators to deliver customizable services quickly with the help of virtual machines that work on very cost-effective nodes, a virtual RAN still stands better in terms of flexibility.
A virtual RAN primarily is made up of centrally operated baseband units (BBUs), virtualized RAN control functions and service delivery optimization. These baseband units move away from the base station to a data center in a virtual RAN. This, therefore, allows BBUs to implement a centralized data center with virtual machines in it. This helps in facilitating intelligent scaling of computing resources and lessening energy consumption and capital expenditure (CAPEX).
In terms of 5G networks, a virtual RAN will help them to increase bandwidth requirements. Other than this, deployment of novel features and algorithms to provide better user experience, the easier split of control plane and data plane, decoupling network functions from proprietary hardware so as to increase the adaptability level for 5G commercialization, are some of the requisites that can be regulated via RAN.
But, with barriers like high-bandwidth demand by RANs and low-latency between the base station and data center are some of the challenges being faced in the implementation of RAN.