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Deal seeks greener future for C-RAN mobile networking

Posted: 11 Sep 2014     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:C-RAN  mobile networking  NFV  FPGAs 

The future is bright for green wireless network solutions. Altera signed a three-year agreement with China Mobile Research Institute (CMRI) to develop base stations for cloud-based centralised radio access network (C-RAN) mobile network infrastructure.

The U.S.-based FPGA vendor will collaborate with CMRI, which is owned by state mobile service provider China Mobile, to research and prototype next-generation wireless solutions such as C-RAN systems that make use of network function virtualisation (NFV). Developed by China Mobile, C-RAN supports 2G, 3G, 4G and other future standards for wireless communications.

C-RAN's concept simplifies mobile deployment, which results in lower operating expenses. It works by centralising the traditional, stand-alone base stations into one location, or base unit (BU), to digitally implement the MAC PHY and antenna array system (AAS) functionality. The remote radio head (RRH), on the other hand, obtains and converts the digital signs to analogue before it amplifies the power and then sends the actual transmission. The RRH is typically connected using fibre to the BU to create a cloud-like RAN topology.

Aside from research, Altera and CMRI will also take on the development of centralized base band processing within wireless base stations with the goal of delivering lower power consumption, lower total operating costs and higher scalability than conventional infrastructure.

MarketsandMarkets forecast the global C-RAN market to grow from $1.71 billion in 2013 to $11.31 billion in 2018. The growth represents a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 45.9 per cent in five years' time. According to the research firm, Asia Pacific will hold the largest market for C-RAN and will also experience the highest spending in the C-RAN space over the next five years.

As an FPGA vendor, the successful result of the research could mean big orders for Altera as well as that of its foundry supplier, such as the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd., where Altera gets its most of its silicon, and Intel Corp., which developed the 14nm FinFET manufacturing process that Altera uses for its advanced devices.

FPGAs are often used in wireless network equipment due to their ability to be reprogrammed for changing industry standards. They also deliver high performance at reasonable cost in applications where volumes would not justify the purchase of custom ICs.

The agreement was signed on Aug. 15 in Beijing, China, during the 2014 International Mobile Internet Conference.





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