A University of Kent-led consortium of telecom companies and academic institutions conducted a 5G test involving the fronthaul portion of the mobile network. The group was able to demonstrate data transfer rates of 5 Gb/s.
Fronthaul is the delivery of the wireless signal between the remote radio head, or antenna, and the base station terminals, often called baseband units (BBUs).
In the University of Kent trial, the test was part of the Intelligent Converged Network Consolidating Radio and Optic Access Around User Equipment (iCIRRUS) project that is funded by the EU’s Horizon 2020 program, a public and private research program with more than $89.8 billion in funding.
The test involved operators Telekom Slovenije, Orange from France, and Primetel from Cyprus. It also included vendors ADVA Optical Networking, Viavi Solutions, Henrich Hertze Institute and IAF from Germany, and cloud service provider Wellness Telecom from Spain.
During the test, iCIRRUS members were able to demonstrate data transfer rates of 100 Gb/s in the fronthaul network. That then enabled the companies to deliver 5 Gb/s data speeds from end-user devices using a 5G-type network that was backward compatible to 4G LTE.
What is iCIRRUS?
The iCIRRUS project is specifically looking at the use of cloud-RAN (C-RAN) and device-to-device communications to create a high-bandwidth network with low-latency services.
The group also is looking at ways to reduce fronthaul and backhaul costs by using Ethernet-based networking and virtual networking in the fronthaul, the BBUs, and the remote radio heads.
Interestingly, ICIRRUS’ goals sound somewhat similar to that of the Broadband Forum’s PON Project. That project, which was developed at the request of Japanese service provider NTT, is exploring the use of network functions virtualization (NFV) and software-defined networking (SDN) to disaggregate the PON functions and use open interfaces.
By virtualizing the PON, operators would be able to make 5G fronthaul and 5G backhaul more cost effective.