xRAN Forum releases fronthaul spec for open RAN architecture

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The xRAN Forum has announced the board’s approval and public availability of the xRAN Fronthaul Specification Version 1.0 – the first specification made publicly available from xRAN since its launch in October 2016.

The specification has been designed to allow a wide range of vendors to develop innovative, best-of-breed RRUs and BBUs for a wide range of deployment scenarios, which can be easily integrated with virtualized infrastructure and management systems using standardized data models.

The new specification delivers on important operator member requirements, said Dr. Sachin Katti, professor at Stanford University and director of the xRAN Forum.

“Our vision to develop, standardize and promote an open alternative to the traditionally closed, hardware-based RAN architecture is becoming a reality,” he said. “Our operator members have been very focused and clear on requirements and our ecosystem of contributing members have risen to the challenge. The Fonthaul Specification is the first of several open interface specifications we expect to be released in 2018.”

Bill Stone, VP of Network Technology Development and Planning at Verizon, said the fronthaul spec is “a groundbreaking advancement” toward enabling an open RAN architecture to support next-generation products and services.

“xRAN compliant radios coupled with virtualized basebands provide much needed flexibility to support rapid development and deployment of RAN products,” said Stone.

Dr Hiroshi Nakamura, EVP and CTO of NTT DoCoMo, said the completion and publication of the spec “will contribute in further advancing the RAN and in expanding the ecosystem in the 5G era.”

The xRAN Forum says interfaces defined by the xRAN Fronthaul Specification enable efficient deployment of advanced technologies like massive MIMO and virtualized RAN with support for LTE and NR. The spec addresses several key operator-defined requirements, including:

  • BBU-RU interoperability based on well specified control, user and management plane interfaces
  • Efficient bandwidth scaling as a function of user throughput and spatial layers to address increasing bandwidth needs and massive MIMO deployments
  • Support for LTE, NR, associated features, 2T – 8T RU products and massive MIMO beamforming antenna systems
  • Advanced receivers and coordination functions
  • Ethernet based transport layer solutions
  • Extensible data models for management functions to simplify integration.

A white paper detailing the specification is available on the xRAN website along with a registration link to download the complete specification.

Operators and vendors participating in the forum include AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, KDDI, NTT DoCoMo, SK Telecom, Telstra, Verizon, AltioStar, Amdocs, Aricent, ASOCS, Blue Danube, Ciena, Cisco, Commscope, Fujitsu, Intel, Mavenir, NEC, Netsia, Nokia, Radisys, Samsung and Texas Instruments. Stanford University and University of Sydney are also members.

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