Cloud technologies to improve performance and efficiency of mobile networks

July 11, 2013, Institute IMDEA Networks
The iJOIN project has proposed the novel concept of “Radio Access Network-as-a-Service.” Credit: RANaaS

The increasingly widespread use of smartphones capable of delivering audio and video streaming is leading to an exponential growth in the volume of traffic carried by mobile networks. Such growth is expected to continue in the next few years, with forecasts that anticipate a hundred-fold increase in traffic by 2020.

In line with these forecasts, the Digital Agenda for Europe has set the goal of providing data rates of at least 30 Mbit/s to all EU citizens by 2020, with 50% of them accessing the Internet with at least 100Mbit/s. Given the current trends on access, these goals cannot be achieved with wired connectivity only, but require capacity to be substantially increased.

To handle such increasing demands on mobile traffic, very dense and low-power small- with a very high spatial reuse need to be deployed. However, this deployment faces several challenges. First, small-cells require a high degree of coordination to handle inter-cell interference. Second, heterogeneous backhaul solutions need to be used to connect the small-cells to the core network. Third, as a result of spatial and temporal traffic , there is a high likelihood that many of the base stations carry no or little traffic, leading to a very high energy waste.

Centralised processing provides a promising approach to cope with many of the above challenges. By leveraging high processing capacity, such an approach allows implementing efficient avoidance and cancelation algorithms across multiple cells. Additionally, by exploiting the fact that the data from all base stations is centralized in the same location, it provides the ability to globally control the access network, which can be used e.g. to selectively turn off those that are not needed, resulting in substantial energy savings.

In the above context, Cloud-RAN (C-RAN) has recently attracted considerable attention as a technology that leverages cloud techniques to centralise the computational resources of the mobile network. With this technology, multiple sites are connected to a central unit ("the cloud") which takes care of performing the baseband processing. Currently proposed C-RAN solutions have been designed with the assumption that the backhaul is composed of fibre links, and as a result such solutions require very high bandwidth connectivity to the cloud.

The above assumption on high bandwidth backhaul links may not be satisfied ubiquitously in future deployments, which will be very dense and rely on wireless backhaul technologies. In this context, a trade-off emerges between the benefits resulting from centralized processing in the cloud and the bandwidth consumed in the backhaul network. To address this, the iJOIN project has proposed the novel concept of "Radio Access Network-as-a-Service" (RANaaS). RANaaS provides an optimal split of RAN functionality between the mobile network and the cloud. This split takes into account not only the computational benefits of using the cloud but also the bandwidth costs.

Another major challenge addressed by iJOIN is the joint optimisation of the backhaul and access design. Indeed, the bandwidth and latency limitations of wireless backhaul technologies require a joint design and operation of the Radio Access Network and the backhaul network. This contrasts with existing solutions, which optimise each part separately and hence result in a suboptimal design.

With the iJOIN architecture, RAN functionality is centralized through an open IT platform based on a cloud infrastructure. Among other advantages, this concept has the potential to open the RAN/backhaul market for new players, such as vendors and providers of cloud infrastructure platforms. RANaaS also provides the technological foundations for shorter and more efficient product development cycles due to the shift from dedicated equipment to software-based functions operated on cloud infrastructures. Furthermore, this solution will lead to a significant reduction of costs for operators, because part of the RAN computation complexity is moved to the cloud infrastructure.

Explore further: New video streaming technology for mobile phones

Related Stories

New video streaming technology for mobile phones

July 10, 2013

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland has developed a new architecture for better-quality video streaming on mobile phones and across wireless networks. The new architecture is based on utilising information gathered and ...

Massive energy cost hidden in wireless cloud boom

April 11, 2013

( —Insatiable demand for popular online applications on the go has created a sustainability time bomb for cloud services, according to Australian research published this week.

CEET report nails wireless as energy monster

April 13, 2013

( —Research from Australia delivers bracing facts about serious demands on power in the coming years. The researchers find that just pinning power-grid drains on the "cloud" is imprecise. The real problem is on ...

Jointly utilizing LTE networks

February 3, 2012

Data-intensive Internet applications on smartphones, tablets and laptops are more popular than ever before. The result: Traffic on the mobile network is increasing at a blinding speed. Intelligent technologies are intended ...

Recommended for you

Technology near for real-time TV political fact checks

January 18, 2019

A Duke University team expects to have a product available for election year that will allow television networks to offer real-time fact checks onscreen when a politician makes a questionable claim during a speech or debate.

Privacy becomes a selling point at tech show

January 7, 2019

Apple is not among the exhibitors at the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show, but that didn't prevent the iPhone maker from sending a message to attendees on a large billboard.

China's Huawei unveils chip for global big data market

January 7, 2019

Huawei Technologies Ltd. showed off a new processor chip for data centers and cloud computing Monday, expanding into new and growing markets despite Western warnings the company might be a security risk.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.