Ericsson is jumping into 5G with both feet, today announcing a cloud radio access network (C-RAN) product that it’s referring to as Elastic RAN.
“Today, the industry approach is to centralize the baseband units into baseband clusters, also referred to as [C-RAN], but it can only be applied to a limited, local geographical area,” said Sebastian Tolstoy, head of marketing for the radio business unit, in an online video presentation for media. “Elastic RAN enables the coordination of all the baseband units across the entire network.”
Even though 5G is still taking shape, decentralization is already emerging as a main theme. Network architects say that 5G will only be able to meet its speed and capacity goals if not all traffic is sent back to the core, but rather sent to a hierarchy of cores. C-RAN will play a role within those hierarchies, but it can be limited by dark fiber connections within a specific locale.
“With Elastic RAN there are no geographic limitations,” Tolstoy said. “It offers optimal coordination regardless of baseband deployment scenarios: centralized, distributed, or a mix.”
However, Eric Parsons, Ericsson’s head of LTE mobile broadband, clarified in an email to SDxCentral that fiber connection is still important:
Unlike traditional C-RAN deployments where all basebands must be centrally located, Elastic RAN supports tight coordination between adjacent sites connected by fiber with distances typically found in dense urban deployments. Since each site coordinates with all its neighbors in a fully peer-to-peer relationship, the area that can ultimately be coordinated is limited only by the area that the operator seeks to have supported by Elastic RAN.
Ericsson’s Elastic RAN is managed through software functionality that works on new Ericsson radios, which the company says are currently shipping and will start to be deployed in the second half of 2016.
The offering supports commercial LTE peak data rates of 1 Gb/s and lays the groundwork for 5G.