Insight: RAN Sharing and Its Role in 5G

Posted by Mae Kowalke on Tuesday, April 14, 2015 with No comments

Thought leadership and industry-guiding white papers published recently on the subject of 5G (e.g. GSMA, NGMN Alliance) touch on the role of network sharing (aka RAN sharing) as being a key aspect of how future mobile infrastructure and services are designed, deployed, and delivered. This includes spectrum sharing or reuse.

But it doesn't stop with just acknowledging the role RAN sharing plays. In its 5G white paper, NGMN stresses that stakeholders should be thinking now of how to design a 5G system that provides methods and instruments for a variety of networking sharing schemes that maximize synergies and enable flexible business models.
"With 5G, it should be possible to provide sufficient flexibility to accommodate the capacity needs of dynamically hosted operators, on a real-time basis (e.g., for capacity brokering architecture, where network resources are provided dynamically depending upon bids offered)," NGMN proposes in its white paper.

That might be easier said than done, given both technology complexities, and the fact that network sharing business models involve relationships between services providers and operators, as well as between operators. Tightly coupling their physical infrastructure in this way inherently involves tension around roles, regulations, privacy, and other business concerns.

Looking at RAN sharing business models currently in use or development is a first step toward envisioning how this sort of thing could
or, perhaps, shouldwork in a 5G world. 

For example, last October Analysys Mason explored 'active RAN sharing' as likely being the next significant evolutionary step for infrastructure sharing, with even greater CapEx and OpEx efficiencies than passive RAN sharing.

Analysys Mason noted that 3GPP has defined three flavors of active RAN sharing (multi-operator RAN, multi-operator core, and gateway core network), each with different levels of involvement among the parties involved, as well as efficiency benefits realized through rapid adoption of optimized business models.

3GPP also recently reported on a study looking into how operators can leverage shared deployments or leased assets. This particular study focused on E-UTRAN, with plans to later expand that to also include UTRAN and GERAN covering 2G, 3G, and 4G networks. It identified a set of common roles for parties participating in RAN sharing agreements: hosts, participants, and roaming operators, as well as operators with multiple roles.

"The creation of these scenarios and use cases to describe enhancements for RAN sharing should now create normative requirements (and specifications) for; OAM access for participating operators, support for load balancing, the generation and retrieval of usage and accounting information, on-demand capacity negotiation, handover functionality and for PWS support over the shared RAN," 3GPP elaborated.

However RAN sharing looks in the future
for 4G or 5Git is likely to be both complex (although it doesn't have to be) and beneficial for the parties involved.

For more insight into the role of RAN sharing for wireless networks, read Accedian's RAN Sharing Solutions white paper. 
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