“Hubs, heat and hops”: market drivers for 5G Transport

Transport will be driven by “Hubs, Heat, and Hops”—rising demands and new innovations in 5G RAN, routers and microwave transmission.

Train and track

Vice President, Strategy and Business Development, Head of Transport

Vice President, Strategy and Business Development, Head of Transport

Category & Hashtags

In a previous blog post, I pointed out that the real changes—and the real action for Transport—spurred by the 5G wave will really take off as the macro cell site disaggregates and radios get smaller and more densely deployed. Now, let’s explore the market drivers for 5G Transport and see if we can identify some guiding themes.

What underlying forces compel service providers to consider new 5G RAN Architectures that include the Transport? What considerations do service providers need to account for when planning for their 5G Transport needs? Answer these questions and you’ll shine a light on the trends that are developing and growing the market.

Hubs, Heat and Hops: The three core drivers of 5G Transport

We can group the drivers for 5G Transport under three general categories: Hubs, Baseband Hotels or Centralized RAN hubs; Heat, or what happens to overworked cell site routers; and Hops, or using microwave transport instead of fiber to hop across distances.

Deploying the CRAN Hub

Let’s begin with “Hubs”—a catchy way to label collocating basebands in a single location, also known as Centralized RAN or CRAN. As service providers densify their networks when deploying Remote Radio Units and Small Cells, CRAN is being explored as a way to realize OPEX and CAPEX savings as well as a way to efficiently implement advanced RAN features like Carrier Aggregation and Coordinated Multipoint (CoMP).

Operator densification plans, the rate of adoption of advanced RAN features and the rate of deploying CRAN hubs all directly impact demand for 5G Transport. To deploy a CRAN Hub along with the radio basebands, the customer will need transport technologies that connect to the basebands. Examples are:

  • Optical and microwave-based CPRI and eCPRI Fronthaul
  • CRAN Hub Site switching and routing
  • Network-based timing and synchronization distribution, and
  • 10 Gigabit Ethernet-based Fiber and Microwave backhaul

Ericsson’s 5G Transport portfolio, working together with Ericsson radio basebands, allow you to bring a complete CRAN Hub solution to meet your LTE-Advanced and 5G needs.

Introducing backhaul that can take the Heat

3GPP has defined several UE categories that are capable of 1Gbps over-the-air connections. RAN and Radio evolution steps include straight-forward improvements such as adding sectors and bands and upgrading radios from 2T2R to 4T4R, while also adding new RAN technologies like Massive MIMO, Spectrum Sharing, and 5G NR. All this will soon make 1Gbps-over-the-air connections a reality.

Capacity demand is rising already as nearly all service providers offer unlimited mobile data plans. When 5G radios hit the market, they will be able to offer five times the capacity of what’s deployed today.

Yet, today’s backhaul cell site routers suffer from a 1Gbps backhaul drain limitation and will start to run hot as backhaul traffic ramps, and latency-sensitive applications get deployed. These site routers will start to drop packets, negatively impacting RAN performance and causing poor quality of experience for end users.

Ericsson anticipated this challenge when we developed our Router 6000. Router 6000 is purpose-built to work with Ericsson RAN. With 10G and 100G ports, deep buffers, on-board timing and sync distribution, indoor and outdoor mechanical design and form factors, these routers, available now, can handle the Heat flexibly, anywhere…today and in the 5G Future.

Microwave: Replacing the long haul with a short Hop

Competitive pressures and growth ambitions are compelling operators to move fast to serve new geographies. Most operators in North America have announced plans to deploy much more fiber optic distribution networks. Not only that, but to prepare for RAN densification plans, we’re seeing operators ramping up their M&A activity to grab fiber routes.

But—a big but—trenching fiber or deploying additional fiber strands to poles and lampposts can be expensive and disruptive, especially in urban and suburban locations. There’s a proven, cost-efficient, quick, and simple alternative to fiber optic ODNs though: microwave transport.

Technological advances in microwave transport like Adaptive Modulation, Radio Link Bonding, Multi-band booster, and MIMO enable microwave connections at 10Gbps, are enabling 5G-Ready microwave transport. Research and Development ongoing now in the D and W microwave bands show promise for 100Gbps microwave transport.

In fact, operators don’t have to wait for 5G-Ready microwave—Ericsson’s MINI-LINK microwave portfolio is available now.


Transport will evolve with, and as part of, the LTE-Advanced and 5G RAN as the macro cell site dis-aggregates and radios get smaller and more densely deployed. And it will be driven by “Hubs, Heat, and Hops”—rising demands and new innovations in 5G RAN, routers and microwave transmission. Ericsson has assembled a suite of solutions purpose-built to meet not only the industry’s immediate needs but to be ready, today, for the specialized requirements of 5G:

  • Ericsson Radio Basebands, working in conjunction with Fronthaul, Site Switching and Routing, Timing and Sync distribution, and backhaul, offer our customers a complete CRAN Hub solution.
  • Router 6000 is purpose built for 5G RAN capacity and latency requirements. It can handle the heat now, and in the future.
  • Microwave is a proven, cost-efficient, quick, and simple alternative to fiber.  MINI-LINK is 5G ready now.

I invite you to check out my other posts on Transport and 5G to learn more about the changing Transport landscape and Ericsson’s Mobile Transport solutions.

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