C-RAN, distributed architectures bring action to the edge

Tammy Parker, FierceWirelessTech

In discussing Cloud RAN and Centralized RAN (C-RAN) distributed base station architectures, the related topic of shifting services away from the network core often pops up.

According to Guang Yang, Strategy Analytics senior analyst, carriers want to push the content cache and service node to the network edge, i.e., to base stations. "It can help operators to lower the traffic on mobile backhaul and to support more innovative location-based applications," he said.

Nokia's (NYSE:NOK) Liquid Applications is one example of this. So I asked Lauri Oksanen, vice president of research and technology for Nokia's networks business, how Liquid Applications fits with the C-RAN concept.

He explained that integrating the Liquid Applications server at the base station brings the service cloud to the RAN and provides an API to the RAN, opening it up to a broader ecosystem.

"This is how we see the cloud coming to the RAN. It's not a big, centralized cloud but rather a distributed cloud computing platform at the base station sites that can help accelerate content delivery or open up more information about the RAN that can be used by the operator or third parties for management purposes. That's the first wave of Cloud RAN as we see it," Oksanen said.

Not surprisingly, C-RAN pioneer SK Telecom, no stranger to the network edge, was also one of the first carriers to test Nokia's Liquid Applications. Though C-RANs remain limited to fiber-rich Asian markets such as South Korea, the architecture offers lots to carriers elsewhere. For a deeper dive into C-RAN, check out this FierceWirelessTech feature.--Tammy

Column updated May 1, 2014, to reflect the fact that Guang Yang is with Strategy Analytics.