Radio Access Network (RAN) is a communication technology that connects individual devices to other components of the communication network such as antennas and base stations. vRAN virtualizes the various network functions in the radio access network with the help of Network Function Virtualization (NFV) model and general purpose processors. In vRAN, the functions of various RAN components including base station and Baseband Unit (BBU) are virtualized with the help of Virtual Machines (VMs). The virtualization makes the radio access network more flexible and open in terms of hosting both the existing and new network functions. Radio access network has been in use since the emergence of cellular technologies and has evolved greatly with the development of wireless communication technologies. Conventional radio access network is widely deployed in 2G, 3G, and 4G wireless communication technologies. Nonetheless, it faces challenges to deliver additional scalability, capacity, service agility, and cost savings which communication service providers (CSPs) need, to meet future demand. vRAN is the result of growing network capacity demand in a highly competitive mobile services market. Significant investments are being made by communication service providers and mobile operators to bring cloud technology and mobile edge computing near base stations. It will enable mobile operators and CSPs to virtualize base station functions such as mobility management. Further, vRAN also allows mobile operators to efficiently utilize their RAN assets by enabling them to share network resources among other market players.
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The global virtualized radio access network market is expected to expand at a rapid pace. Coverage and capacity improvement, and reduction in OpEx and CapEx are expected to drive the virtualized radio access network market during the forecast period. Virtualized random access network runs on Virtual Machines (VMs). Applications executing on VMs can be seamlessly transferred from one to another which reduces maintenance, operational, and upgrade costs. Compared to conventional, distributed random access network, vRAN solutions have observed reduction in OpEx by 30% to 40% and CapEx by 40% to 60%. Further, requirement of smaller footprint on the site reduces building, execution, and site lease costs and results in lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). Nonetheless, the global rollout of virtualized radio access network is expected to take significant time due to presence of millions of macro cell towers worldwide which might hamper the virtualized radio access network market growth. Further, 5G technology is currently in a development stage and is expected to be deployed by the end of 2019 or early 2020. Therefore, a more practical approach would be to deploy vRAN hardware when 5G gets deployed.