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A Tutorial on the Characterisation and Modelling of Low Layer Functional Splits for Flexible Radio Access Networks in 5G and Beyond


The centralization of baseband (BB) functions in a radio access network (RAN) towards data processing centres is receiving increasing interest as it enables the exploitation of resource pooling and statistical multiplexing gains among multiple cells, facilitates the introduction of collaborative techniques for different functions (e.g., interference coordination), and more efficiently handles the complex requirements of advanced features of the fifth generation (5G) new radio (NR) physical layer, such as the use of massive multiple input multiple output (MIMO). However, deciding the functional split (i.e., which BB functions are kept close to the radio units and which BB functions are centralized) embraces a trade-off between the centralization benefits and the fronthaul costs for carrying data between distributed antennas and data processing centres. Substantial research efforts have been made in standardization fora, research projects and studies to resolve this trade-off, which becomes more complicated when the choice of functional splits is dynamically achieved depending on the current conditions in the RAN. This paper presents a comprehensive tutorial on the characterisation, modelling and assessment of functional splits in a flexible RAN to establish a solid basis for the future development of algorithmic solutions of dynamic functional split optimisation in 5G and beyond systems. First, the paper explores the functional split approaches considered by different industrial fora, analysing their equivalences and differences in terminology. Second, the paper presents a harmonized analysis of the different BB functions at the physical layer and associated algorithmic solutions presented in the literature, assessing both the computational complexity and the associated performance.



J. Pérez-Romero, O. Sallent, A. Gelonch, X. Gelabert, B. Klaiqi, M. Kahn and D. Campoy


IEEE Communications Surveys & Tutorials


December 2023