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Radio Access Technology and Heterogeneous Networks

(Interlaken, Switzerland - Alvin Wei-Cheng Wong)

Traditional Radio Access Networks


In a Radio Access Network (RAN), radio sites provide radio access and coordinate the management of resources across the radio sites. A device is wirelessly connected to the core network, and the RAN transmits its signal to various wireless endpoints, and the signal travels with other networks’ traffic. 

Traditional Radio Access Networks (TRAN) is the Radio Access Network (RAN) that has been in use since the inception of cellular technology. It comprises the Base Station (BS) that makes the connections to sector antennas. These antennas cover a small region depending on their capacity and can handle the reception and transmission of information within this small region only. The physical connection method to a wireless communication network; WiFi, Bluetooth, 4G, LTE…etc. Multi-RAT networks and most mobile devices support several RATs. 

Cell phones use radio waves to communicate by converting your voice and data into digital signals to send through as radio waves. In order for your cell phone to connect to a network or the internet, it connects first through a RAN. RANs utilize radio transceivers to connect you to the cloud. Most base stations (aka transceivers) are primarily connected via fiber backhaul to the mobile core network. 

A RAN provides radio access and assists to coordinate network resources across wireless devices. Devices primarily connect to cellular network via LTE or 5G NR connections. Silicon chips in the core network as well as the user equipment (like your phone or laptop) help enable the functionality of the RAN.


Heterogeneous Network Environment


A Radio Access Technology or (RAT) is the underlying physical connection method for a radio based communication network. Many modern mobile phones support several RATs in one device such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and GSM, UMTS, LTE or 5G NR. More recently, RAT is used in discussions of heterogeneous wireless networks. it is used when a user device selects between the type of RAT being used to connect to the Internet. This is often performed similar to access point selection in IEEE 802.11 (Wi-Fi) based networks. 

Wireless infrastructure today includes many elements – macro base stations, metro cells, outdoor and indoor distributed antenna systems (or DAS), small cells and more – all working together in a heterogeneous network (or HetNet). Heterogeneous network is used in wireless networks using different access technologies. For example, a wireless network that provides a service through a wireless LAN and is able to maintain the service when switching to a cellular network is called a wireless heterogeneous network. To deliver the required data seamlessly from a cloud data center to wireless subscribers, a 3G/4G/5G co-existence and heterogeneous radio access in conjunction with a fiber-based mobile fronthaul design is extremely important. 

The migration of wireless networking towards the 5G era is distinguished by the proliferation of various Radio Access Technologies (RAT). As no existing technology can be surrogated by another one, the coexistence of today wireless networks is the best solution at hand when dealing with the incessantly growing user demand for bandwidth. Hence, in this heterogeneous environment, users will be able to utilize services through diverse RATs. RAT selection is crucial and must be designed astutely to avoid resource wastage.

The incremental needs of the wireless technologies came from the rapid proliferation of the mobile devices, which become one of the life necessities for people. The heterogeneous wireless Networks is a term referring to mixed networks made of different RATs in the aim of achieving the always best connected concept. In this case, users with multi mode terminals can connect to different wireless technologies such as 802.16, 802.11, Universal Mobile Telecommunication System, High Speed Packet Access and LTE in the same time. 


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