C-RAN inflection point to happen next year, despite fears over access to fibre

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A big rise in cloud-RAN (C-RAN) deployments in 2018 will lead to the technology being installed by the “entire world” in 2021, according to a new report from Rethink Technology Research.

The highest number of deployments by 2021 will be in the APAC region, which will account for 46 percent of deployments.

Europe will account for 22 percent and North America 18 percent, as providers in the US focus on core and transport rather than C-RAN and RAN initially.

Rethink predicted that by 2021 there would be 2.2 million centralised or virtualised small cells rolled out, representing 43 percent of the total number of the total number of small cells. Further, there will be 503,000 new virtualised macrocells deployed, representing 34 percent of the total.

The largest number of respondents, 18 percent, said that the ability to use network resources more flexibly was the main reason for considering C-RAN.

A reduction in operating costs was cited by 16 percent, while 13 percent cited performance and capacity improvements.

Key barriers to deploying C-RAN included access to affordable fibre, cited by 19 percent of respondents, as well as uncertainty about the cost model and existing LTE investments.

5G is expected to act as the catalyst for virtualising “all layers” of the network post 2020, Rethink added.

The report was based on interviews with major mobile operators discussing future buying plans.

Vodafone is one of the latest operators to trial C-RAN, in a test with Nokia in Italy taking place in December. The operator tested the technology to examine how it can shift from 4G to 5G and enable large-scale IoT services.