Xhaul: toward an integrated fronthaul/backhaul architecture in 5G networks
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The Xhaul architecture presented in this article is aimed at developing a 5G integrated backhaul and fronthaul transport network enabling flexible and software-defined reconfiguration of all networking elements in a multi-tenant and service-oriented unified management environment. The Xhaul transport network vision consists of high-capacity switches and heterogeneous transmission links (e.g., fiber or wireless optics, high-capacity copper, mmWave) interconnecting remote radio heads, 5G points of attachment (5GPoAs, e.g., macro- and small cells), centralized- processing units (mini data centers), and points of presence of the core networks of one or multiple service provider(s). This transport network shall flexibly interconnect distributed 5G radio access and core network functions, hosted on network centralized nodes, through the implementation of a control infrastructure using a unified, abstract network model for control plane integration (Xhaul Control Infrastructure, XCI); and a unified data plane encompassing innovative high-capacity transmission technologies and novel deterministic-latency switch architectures (Xhaul packet Forwarding Element, XFE). Standardization is expected to play a major role in a future 5G integrated front haul/backhaul architecture for multi-vendor interoperability reasons. To this end, we review the major relevant activities in the current standardization landscape and the potential impact on the Xhaul architecture.