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What is Fronthaul in Telecom?

May 2021

World Telecommunication Day might seem like a day that only engineers would recognize, but with our world more connected than ever, we all have a reason to celebrate this day and the technology that brought us here. If you are one of the 5.1 billion people who has a cell phone, you can thank telecom technology. If you are reaping the benefits of 5G’s lightning fast speeds, you can thank telecom technology. If you enjoy watching movies while traveling by plane, you can thank telecom technology.

For World Telecommunication Day this year, we are going to dive into the topic of fronthaul architecture. We will discuss what fronthaul is, what it makes possible and which Radiall products support it.

What is Fronthaul in Telecom?

Fronthaul refers to the optical network (i.e. fiber link) that supports C-RAN (Centralized or Cloud Radio Access Network) architecture by connecting individual Remote Radio Units or Heads (RRUs or RRHs) and Baseband Units (BBUs).

Fronthaul originated with 4G LTE, when operators moved their radios closer to the antennas and utilized fiber optic connections between RRU/RRHs and BBUs to allow more flexibility as to where BBUs could be housed. This made it possible to pool BBU processing units. In small cell applications, operators are more likely to centralize baseband resources by utilizing fronthaul to connect a cluster of radios. In these scenarios, the RRH hardware is located at the individual cell site, and the BBU is located at a centralized location to serve multiple RRHs. Therefore, fronthaul is the optical network links that connect multiple RRHs with a centralized BBU. These links strengthen the backhaul connection between BBUs and the central network core while helping data transfer quickly.

Fronthaul supports wireless communications, including 4G, 5G and the Internet of Things (IoT). By utilizing fiber optic links, fronthaul enables reliable network coverage by providing low latency connections and high bandwidth.  

The graphic below from TechTarget illustrates fronthaul technology in the grand scheme of C-RAN. 

How Does Radiall Support Fronthaul?

Radiall designs and manufactures a wide range of interconnect components that support fronthaul technology and all supporting links in the wireless telecom infrastructure.  

Radiall’s Fiber Optic Solutions for Fronthaul

You can see that while the telecommunication industry may seem foreign to many of us, it powers the technology that many of us rely on every day for work, school, entertainment and more. We are proud of the contribution our products make in the telecom industry and in the lives of individuals around the world. Happy World Telecommunication Day!