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Evolution towards Cloud RAN and ECPRI
Mobile data traffic continues to grow exponentially and operators need to keep up with demand. While early LTE deployments concentrated on providing coverage, operators are now focusing on adding capacity through spectral efficiency improvements, cell densification and more spectrum. In doing so, they must upgrade their fronthaul transport networks while also preparing for 5G. In many cases, operators are looking to centralized Cloud RAN (C-RAN) architectures with capacity demands and 5G in mind. According to Rethink Research, operators will deploy centralized and virtualized macrocells and microcells at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 23 percent between 2017 and 2025. These deployments will overtake new deployments of conventional cells by 2022. The deployment of RAN network functions virtualization (NFV) will quickly bring many more C-RAN sites into the network. Early centralized RAN deployments for 4G provide a solid foundation and stepping stone for moving to C-RAN. In many cases, the central offices or hub sites that house the central baseband processing will coexist with Multi-access Edge Computing (MEC) data centers required for 5G networks.
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