Cell Backhaul – Building The 5G-Ready Network of The Future, Today (2017)

By Jon Baldry, Infinera

5G promises huge advances in wireless technology, with its greater bandwidth and lower latency that enable a wide array of new services and applications. Radical changes will be required throughout the network, from handset design to the architecture deep into the core of the network. 5G will bring significant challenges to the transport network as well, and also adds a degree of uncertainty as the 5G standards are still under development.

Nonetheless, mobile operators and MSO-based wholesalers who provide them with mobile transport services want to be able to evolve seamlessly from today’s 4G-based fronthaul and backhaul environment to a future 5G environment while addressing evolving transport network requirements, including:

  • Even higher demands on performance – Low latency, synchronization and higher capacity demands are a given with 5G.
  • Ethernet evolution – 5G fronthaul will migrate to Ethernet, creating a hybrid fronthaul/backhaul environment sometimes called midhaul or crosshaul (X-haul). But Ethernet needs to adapt to support this new environment.
  • Seamless coexistence of 4G and 5G - Whereas the transitions from 2G-3G and then 3G-4G were totally separate networks, 4G doesn’t go away with 5G. 4G infrastructure remains a key element in the new network, which must coexist with the new 5G infrastructure.
  • Virtualization of key network resources - The move to a software-defined network (SDN) controlled and cloud-structured environment will help facilitate support for mobile edge computing (MEC), fog networking and virtualization of key network resources.

To address these challenges, network operators need networks that are flexible and open, and offer high performance. This paper will describe the challenges associated with the migration to 5G and show how MSOs must evolve their transport services to adapt and grasp the exciting opportunity that 5G presents to the industry.

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