With the proliferation of mobile networks, consumer equipment (UE) needs to be seamlessly connected to a core network to facilitate fast data communication.

In this blog you will learn what RAN (radio access network) is, how it works, the different variations and why it is an integral part of 5G technology.

What is RAN?

RAN (radio access network) is a type of network infrastructure commonly used for mobile networks, which consists of base radio stations with large antennas.

The main purpose of RAN is to connect wireless consumer equipment.

How does RAN work?

In RAN, the radio (RU) processes digital radio signals and transmits, receives and converts signals to the RAN base station.

When the RU receives signal information from the antennas, it communicates with the baseband module (BBU) using the Common Public Radio Interface (CPRI).

The BBU receives the signal information and processes it so that it can be forwarded to the core network. The data is returned to the user in reverse.

The size of the area that the RAN node can cover varies depending on the capabilities of the antennas, RAN hardware and software of the node.

In mobile networks, 60 to 65 percent of the total cost of network ownership is in RAN.

What are the variations of RAN?

D-RAN (distributed RAN)

This is the traditional RAN setting, in which a remote radio device (RRU) and a baseband module (BBU) are located together in each cell.

RRU filters and amplifies the RF (radio frequency) signal, deciding the coverage of the system; it also converts RF signal into digital data processing.

CPRI (Common Public Radio Interface) is the protocol for frontal communication between towers and base stations.

Each cellular site has a BBU that manages the entire base station, operation / maintenance and signal processing. It determines the capacity of the system.

Backhaul is the interface that is formed between the BBU pool and the main node (network).


D-RAN is the traditional RAN setting in which a remote radio device (RRU) and a baseband module (BBU) are located together in each cell.

C-RAN (centralized RAN)

With C-RAN the BBU is moved to a centralized location and the cell has only the antenna and the RRU.

The BBU pool is a pool of BBUs in a centralized location.

The fronthaul is an interface that is formed between the RRU and the BBU pool, and the backhaul serves as an interface between the BBU pool and the main node.

The main advantage of C-RAN is that it reduces the cost of deploying and maintaining a cell, as BBUs are centralized.

In addition, it improves spectral efficiency and reduces interference, as BBU pools can share resources dynamically between multiple RRUs.



With C-RAN the BBU is moved to a centralized location and the cell has only the antenna and the RRU.

You have another option to split BBUs into centralized units (CUs) and decentralized units (DUs) to split tasks, reduce costs, and further improve efficiency. Midhaul is the interface between DU and CU.

DU is software deployed on a COTS server (commercial / customizable) that is controlled by a CU that controls the RLC (Radio Control) / MAC (Environment Access Control) block and parts of the PHY (physical) layer. .

The RLC / MAC unit is the main transport unit of the air interface used between the mobile and the network.

In essence, DU helps to separate tasks instead of having everything in the BBU pool. It simply allocates resources for specific tasks.

CU is software that manages RRC (Radio Resource Control) / PDCP (Packet Data Convergence Protocol).

RRC performs many functions such as broadcasting information, establishing and releasing connections between user equipment and RAN, and controlling service quality.

PDCP compresses and decompresses IP data stream headers and transfers user data, among other technical functions.

The CU can remain in the base station or be placed in a more central aggregation location. However, the DU is stored in a base station that is not in aggregation or core network.



You have another option to split BBUs into centralized units (CUs) and decentralized units (DUs) to split tasks, reduce costs, and further improve efficiency.

vRAN (virtualized RAN)

vRAN is a type of C-RAN with its network functions separate from the hardware on which it runs.

The control planes – which control how data is transmitted – and the data planes – which actually transmit data – are also separated.

This type of RAN is often found in 5G technology architectures because networks need virtualization to support 5G usage and performance requirements.

How does vRAN work?

Network Function Virtualization (NFV) is the practice of turning hardware functions into software. In NFV architecture, hardware is usually COTS (commercially ready) hardware.

RAN virtualization makes it more flexible, flexible, cost-effective, and scalable than hardware-based RAN.

vRAN can adapt to network changes more quickly, including intelligent load balancing and resource allocation on demand; it also allows for change without having to replace expensive hardware across the entire infrastructure, just updating the software.

Upgrading RAN software can improve network connectivity, efficiency, or security, among other features.

With vRAN infrastructure, network operators can handle security better than network operators that still use non-virtualized RAN, as bugs and other security issues can be fixed by updating the software instead of having to replace the hardware in large scale.

A secure network attracts more customers because the more trusted the customer base is in a product as a network, the more likely they are to use it.

However, this type of RAN loads the servers, as it requires huge amounts of computing power. This is where peripheral calculations come into play.


vRAN is a type of C-RAN with network functions separate from the hardware on which it runs.

O-RAN (Open RAN)

Operators today want a more diverse ecosystem of suppliers and are redefining their RAN requirements.

O-RAN is a term used for industry standards for RAN interfaces that support interoperability between vendor equipment and offer network flexibility. (Think of O-RAN in the same way that open SOSA / MOSA architectures implement in their respective fields.)

The main goal of O-RAN is to have an interoperability standard for RAN elements, including non-proprietary hardware and white box software from various vendors.

O-RAN is divided into three main building blocks: O-RU, O-DU and O-CU.

O-RAN standards are developed using vRAN principles and technologies to improve network flexibility, improve security and reduce costs.

Network operators who choose O-RAN can avoid blocking with a single provider’s own hardware and software. This leaves more room for innovation and competition, lower equipment costs and improved network performance as more providers can provide the building blocks and add new services.

The O-RAN Alliance allows customers to mix and match components from different vendors without being locked into one; it launches open source RAN software, assisting its members in integrating and testing their implementations.



O-RAN has three main building blocks: O-RU, O-DU and O-CU.

RAN and 5G technology

The amount of data available on a daily basis is growing rapidly, and as devices become more interconnected and connected to the larger network, data is being generated and transmitted in huge volumes.

5G networks require RAN virtualization (vRAN), as 5G requires more visibility, automation, and adaptability that traditional hardware-based RANs cannot provide.

The ability to scale and intelligently adapt the network to changing conditions is important when the requirements for 5G networks are increasing both by mobile phone users and, more importantly, by IoT (Internet of Things) devices.

Network administrators should be able to update vRAN remotely, as this allows for improvement as technology advances. This is a key component of 5G RANs, as component technologies are expected to change in the coming years.

Last thoughts

RAN is a critical component that allows fast data transfer to core networks and user devices.

Through distributed, centralized, virtualized and open infrastructures, RAN can be modified and modified to meet the requirements of different operators and technologies.

At Trenton, our high-performance PCs are able to deploy network virtualization to run multiple RAN infrastructures in a hyper-convergent environment running the same hardware.

This helps improve connectivity in general, reduce hardware costs and downtime, and allow remote control of devices on site.

Different variations of RAN will help increase flexibility, increase efficiency and reduce costs, providing unmatched performance for different uses and applications in a wide range of industries.

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