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$7B global spending on C-RAN by end of 2016

Report says C-RAN is increasingly the preferred approach for future mobile networks

The latest SNS Research report on the market for the C-RAN (Centralised Radio Access Network) ecosystem says that it is expected to surpass $7billion in global spending by the end of 2016. Moreover, C-RAN is increasingly becoming the preferred approach to deploy future mobile networks for both macro and small cell coverage.

C-RAN is an architectural shift in RAN (Radio Access Network) design, where the bulk of baseband processing is centralised and aggregated for a large number of distributed radio nodes. In comparison to standalone clusters of base stations, C-RAN is said to provide significant performance and economic benefits such as baseband pooling, enhanced coordination between cells, virtualisation, network extensibility, smaller deployment footprint and reduced power consumption.

Although Japan and South Korea continue to spearhead commercial C-RAN investments, interest is also growing in other parts of the world. Mobile operators such as China Mobile, Orange, Verizon and Sprint are already investing in the technology.

The market is further expected to grow at a CAGR of nearly 20 percent between 2016 and 2020, according to the report. These investments will include spending on RRHs (Remote Radio Heads), BBUs (Baseband Units) and fronthaul transport networking gear.

Other key findings of the "˜C-RAN (Centralized Radio Access Network) Ecosystem: 2016 - 2030 - Opportunities, Challenges, Strategies & Forecasts'  report include the use of Remote Radio Heads with baseband capabilities by an increasing number of C-RAN solutions. This is to alleviate stringent fronthaul requirements and allows some intelligence (primarily Layer 1 and Layer 2) to be distributed among RRHs, with Layer 3 functionality residing at centralised BBUs.

The ongoing 5G race is expected to significantly boost C-RAN investments over the coming years. SNS Research estimates that over $1billion of all C-RAN architecture network investments will be directed towards 5G networks by the end of 2020.

At present, most virtualised Cloud RAN investments are limited to trials and demonstrations. However, by the end of 2020, we expect that virtualized BBUs will account for over 6 percent of all C-RAN BBU investments.

SNS Research is a market intelligence and consulting firm for the worldwide telecoms industry, with a particular focus on wireless infrastructure and mobile devices. 

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