Infinera launches flexible fronthaul future-proofed for 5G

Credit: JC0598 /

Infinera has launched a new batch of 5G-ready mobile fronthaul solutions for cellcos with the aim of giving them more flexible deployment options and alleviating concerns about installing fronthaul gear ahead of eventual 5G upgrades.

The new fronthaul solutions promise greater flexibility in three areas, starting with form-factor. In addition to the usual card for the central office, Infinera now offers a “pizza box” 1 RU rackmounted fronthaul option for street cabinets without air-conditioning, and a fully-hardened clamshell unit – i.e. a completely sealed unit that can be bolted onto a lamppost or wall.

The new fronthaul boxes also sport “flexponders” – ports that can be configured to function either as a transponder of muxponder.

“In the past, it used to be you installed one or the other, explains Jon Baldry, Infinera’s director of metro marketing. “With these, you have 12 ports, and you can use them for transponders or muxponders or a combination of both.”

The fronthaul gear is also more flexible in terms of services, he adds. “We can reprogram them to support CPRI/OBSAI, Ethernet, NGFI, CPRI over Ethernet or whatever. And it’s also vendor agnostic, open and programmable via SDN.”

Baldry told Disruptive.Asia the focus on high flexibility and performance is essentially to give cellcos peace of mind in terms of committing to a fronthaul solution now when 5G is looming on the horizon but hasn’t yet been standardized.

“We designed these to be 5G-ready to alleviate concerns from cellcos that if they install an Infinera fronthaul solution now, they’ll have to rip it out and start again when 5G is finalized, which means installing it now would be a waste of time and money,” Baldry said. “So we’re trying to take that pain point away.”

The other issue for operators is that the transition from 4G to 5G isn’t about switching from one technology to another as has been the case in the past,” he adds. “4G and 5G will co-exist, and not always evenly – you’ll have some parts of the network where 5G is more heavily deployed and other parts where it’s still mainly 4G. But they still have to function as a single network. So you need the flexibility to support 4G protocols like CPRI or OBSAI, and be able to evolve to new 5G protocols when they’re finalized, and run all of them together seamlessly. So the fronthaul has to be flexible enough to support that.”

Meanwhile, Infinera also launched an updated mobile backhaul solution that includes an OpenFlow interface controlled by Infinera’s Xceed Software Suite, and a EMXP Access Unit designed for street cabinets “where you wouldn’t normally put WDM in,” Baldry said.

The fronthaul clamshell and EMXP Access Unit are scheduled for availability in the second quarter of this year – everything else is available now.

Photo by JC0598

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