How CloudRAN could solve the UK’s mobile coverage problem

Chinese tech giant Huawei has suggested its latest radio access network, CloudRAN, could help solve some of the UK's mobile coverage issues and suggested it is a key component for the success of global 5G roll-out.

Cloud RAN, also known as C-RAN, is a multi-band radio access network (RAN) technology that aims to deliver many different types of signal, be that WiFi, 3G, 4G, or 5G, through a single cloud-based, distributed architecture.

This centralises the electronics of multiple cell units, whether they are macrocells (base stations), microcells or picocells, into a single location the base station server which uses a virtualised OS to prioritise workloads both on the fly and to a predetermined schedule based on predicted needs and real-time needs.

This means that, in theory, whichever is the better signal available in any given area will be the one delivered to a smartphone within range.

Speaking at a media roundtable hosted at the annual Huawei Analyst Conference in Shenzhen, China, Yang Chaobin, CMO of the company's wireless network product line and one of the pioneers in developing Huawei's RAN technologies, said: "For the coverage issue [in the UK], in an area if an end user wants to enjoy mobile communication services, the most important condition is the smartphone can receive a signal. If in one area the user cannot receive any signal at all then I don't think any solution can help solve that problem!

"[But] the CloudRAN solution can provide [better] performance when a user is in an overlapping or edge area of multiple cells and all those cells provide a weak signal. By using CloudRAN, we can provide a better experience for the end user."

Yang added that, more broadly, Cloud RAN technology in general and Huawei's own CloudRAN product specifically, will be vital to the successful roll-out of 5G around the world.

If network providers intend to rely solely on 5G for connectivity, he said, then it will not work. The mobile network architecture needs to be modernised with C-RAN before the commercial roll-out of the technology takes place, which Huawei expects to take place by 2020, in order to provide a smooth transition and better experience for users onto new mobile connectivity technologies, from 5G and beyond.

Jane McCallion is ITPro's Deputy Editor, primarily covering security, storage and networking for ITPro, CloudPro and ChannelPro.

Jane joined ITPro and CloudPro in July 2012, having previously written freelance for a number of business and finance magazines. She has also covered current affairs, including the student, public sector workers and TUC protests and strikes in central London while studying a Masters in Journalism at Goldsmiths, University of London.

Prior to becoming a journalist, Jane studied Applied Languages at the University of Portsmouth.