A new open fronthaul specification approved by the xRAN Forum offers equipment vendors a chance to break away from proprietary architectures and develop interoperable radio and baseband units.
The new specification, which includes support for both LTE and New Radio, lays out common control, user and synchronisation plane protocols. It also addresses requirements for key technologies including Massive MIMO and virtualised RAN to increase fronthaul efficiency.
More features, including Licensed Assisted Access (LAA) and additional efficiency improvements, are under consideration for the next version of the specification.
The group noted a shared foundation will allow different vendors to design compatible baseband and radio units, and promote a development ecosystem for more innovative RAN products.
Bill Stone, Verizon’s VP of network technology development and planning said in a statement: “xRAN compliant radios coupled with virtualised basebands provide much needed flexibility to support rapid development and deployment of RAN products”.
“By adopting xRAN specifications, we will be able to speed innovation, increase collaboration and be more agile to a quickly evolving market.”
Dubbed Version 1.0, the specification is the first released by the group since it was founded in October 2016. The forum counts AT&T, Verizon, KDDI, NTT Docomo, Deutsche Telekom, Telstra and SK Telecom among its operator members, and Cisco, CommScope, Intel, Nokia and Samsung among its list of contributing vendors.