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Cloud-RAN and CPRI

4G LTE networks have started moving towards a distributed

Cloud RAN based architecture. The C-RAN approach is
summarized in CPRI overview in IEEE Communications
(Antonio de la Oliva, et al):
The C-RAN approach advocates for the separation of the radio
elements of the base station (called remote radio heads, RRHs)
from the elements processing the baseband signal (called
baseband units, BBUs), which are centralized in a single
location or even virtualized into the cloud. This approach
benefits from simpler radio equipment at the network edge,
easier operation, and cheaper maintenance, while the main
RAN intelligence (BBUs) is centralized in the operator-
controlled premises. The challenge of C-RAN deployments is
that such a functional split requires these two elements to be
connected through a high-speed, low-latency, and accurately
synchronized network, the so-called fronthaul.

The network is split into three parts:

 C-RAN: Cloud-RAN that houses the Core Network, RRC,

PDCP and RLC layers. Standard cloud computing platforms
may be used to house the C-RAN.
 REC: Radio Equipment Controller that handles the MAC
and most of the PHY layer. The REC transmit-chain handles
channel coding, interleaving, modulation, MIMO and
transmit power control are handled. The individual channels
are then multiplexed using an Inverse FFT operation.
Finally, the In-phase (I) and Quadrature (Q) samples are
sent over to CPRI link to the Radio Equipment (RE).
 RE: The Radio Equipment handles the analog processing on
the channel. The RE transmit chain receives the I and Q,
performs the digital to analog conversion and transmits the
resultant channel to the antenna. The RE is hosted at the
antenna site.

CPRI in the transmit chain (Credit: CPRI overview, IEEE Communications)

The link between the cloud hosted C-RAN and REC is via a
traditional IP based backhaul. The link between REC and RE is
served using CPRI (Common Public Radio Interface). The CPRI
link requires:

 High bandwidth as IQ samples are being transferred

between the REC and RE.
 Low latency as any delay on this list adds to the overall link
delay. The low latency requirements also place a limit on the
distance between REC and RE.
 Low jitter as variation in IQ sample delivery may result in
burst decode failure at the UE or the eNodeB.

eCPRI: Fronthaul for 5G

5G networks will bring new functional splits between the
baseband and radio. Some of the split options under discussion
at the 3GPP are shown below.

5G network split options under discussion (Credit: eCPRI overview)

eCPRI is designed to handle such diverse fronthaul types. eCPRI
supports service points for:

 User plane traffic

 Synchronization
 Control and Management

eCPRI architecture (Credit: CPRI)

These service points are handled by the eCPRI protocol stack
over IP/Ethernet.

eCPRI protocol stack (Credit: eCPRI)

Advantages of eCPRI
 Ten-fold reduction of required bandwidth
 Required bandwidth can scale according to the to the user
plane traffic
 Ethernet can carry eCPRI traffic and other traffic
simultaneously, in the same switched network
 A single Ethernet network can simultaneously carry eCPRI
traffic from several system vendors.
 Ethernet-OAM may be used for operation, administration,
maintenance, provisioning, and troubleshooting of the
 The new interface is a real-time traffic interface enabling use
of sophisticated coordination algorithms guaranteeing best
possible radio performance
 The interface is future proof allowing new feature
introductions by SW updates in the radio network
 Jitter and latency will be reduced for high priority traffic
using Time Sensitive Networking standard IEEE 802.1CM.
The 802.1CM supports preemption of a low priority packet
to schedule a high priority delay and jitter sensitive

eCPRI presentation