China Mobile Research Institute (CMRI) and Xilinx have just signed an MOU for development of the Next Generation Fronthaul Interface (NGFI) to be used in C-RANs (Cloud-based Radio Area Networks), RRUs (Remote Radio Units), large-scale antenna systems, 3D MIMO (multiple-input, multiple-output) antenna systems, and other 5G infrastructure components. Where does NGFI fit in a C-RAN network architecture? Here’s a block diagram to illustrate, taken from CMRI’s NGFI White Paper:
As the above figure shows, NGFI is the fronthaul interface between baseband processors and remote radio heads in the radio network infrastructure. NGFI shifts some BBU (baseband unit) processing functions to the RRUs, which alters BBU and RRU architecture. As a result, this next-generation architecture redefines the BBU as the Radio Cloud Center (RCC). Collections of RRUs, possibly managed by Radio Access Units (RAUs), become Radio Remote Systems (RRS). In addition, the existing fronthaul protocol using point-to-point connections morphs into a many-to-many fronthaul network that employs a packet-exchange protocol.
NGFI is a work in progress. Xilinx is contributing a validated NGFI reference design based on the Zynq SoC to the NGFI R&D effort. The Xilinx reference design will serve as a baseline framework for ongoing 4.5G/5G wireless network research and the All Programmable Zynq SoC’s hardware, software, and I/O programmability give researchers the ability to quickly grow, develop, and evolve the NGFI design from the baseline as envisioned by CMRI.