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Transport Networks for 5G

Along with core and radio access networks (RAN), xHaul (fronthaul, midhaul, backhaul) transport networks are a key component of a cellular wireless network. This white paper delves into the present transport network landscape, explores ongoing work, and envisions the future of 5G transport networks.

“Transport Networks for 5G” examines characteristics shaping 5G transport networks that have been increasing with bandwidth demands, driving the need for continuous backhaul capacity and the necessity for flexible, scalable solutions. Current efforts focus on cloud-based RAN connectivity, network-based timing and synchronization, and end-to-end network slices. Future work will center on enhancing transport network security and addressing the influence of the metaverse and immersive applications.

Key topics surrounding 5G transport networks in this 5G Americas white paper include:

  • 5G deployment and the xHaul transport network
  • Advancements in 5G RAN technologies
  • Continued usage of microwave spectrum
  • Ethernet-based fronthaul interfaces
  • Integrated Access Backhaul (IAB) in 5G
  • 5G standalone split CU/DU architectures
  • Increased deployment of virtualized RAN
  • Network timing, frequency, and phase synchronization challenges for vRAN   
  • Evolution of cell sites
  • 5G deployment, and wireline and wireless convergence
  • 5G deployment and sustainability

5G's evolution toward open architectures, diverse network slicing, and precise timing and synchronization demands robust transport networks as the bedrock of innovation and performance. New transport technology capabilities help pave the path to a connected future, where seamless connectivity and intelligent distribution unlock the true potential of 5G.

Executive Summary

5G deployments continue their upward trend and will soon be the dominant mobile wireless protocol deployed in North America. The ecosystem is gathering valuable information from these deployments, and one area of focus is the transport network. As part of 5G’s evolution, key architecture components are being separated and distributed to the cloud in ways that make 5G more scalable and flexible. Meanwhile, bandwidth demands continue to increase at the same time applications and services require low latency. New requirements are presented to the transport network at each step of an operator’s 5G journey. The transport infrastructure of today must be flexible to adapt to upcoming requirements as it enables new architectures, tools, and ultimately, 5G networks innovation, monetization, and performance. The fundamental goal of the 5G transport network is to deliver transparent connectivity that allows both present and future functions to work together seamlessly.

This paper will cover the current transport network landscape, explore areas of current work, and examine the future of 5G transport networks. It is crucial to analyze both where and how functions are split, because those factors will dictate where bandwidth and other characteristics will be required.

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