Optical Transport and access network requirements
There are two main drivers putting strict delay requirements on mobile fronthaul for 5G networks: the delay sensitive services targeted by the 5G network, and the fronthaul design itself. The figure above illustrates the maximum tolerable delay of some delay-sensitive applications that will need to be supported by both future backhaul and fronthaul networks. As seen in the figure, there are applications tolerating delays of 1 ms or less among the 5G target applications. The delay requirements in eCPRI-based fronthaul are even stricter. For fronthaul transport with split in the physical layer, as found in CPRI over Ethernet  and in eCPRI option “D” and “E” , the Hybrid Automatic Retransmit reQuest (HARQ) protocol sets restrictions on maximum delay between the RRH and BBU. In , a one-way delay of 123 microsecond is found as the maximum. In  and  an even stricter delay requirement of 100 microsecond one-way delay is set as a requirement.
Table 1. Comparison of features for OTN and Ethernet
Summary and conclusion
In this paper OTN and Ethernet network functionality has been compared with respect to applications including longhaul, metro, access and mobile fronthaul and backhaul. Because OTN natively defines how to frame a number of different protocols into OTN frames, it is more suitable than Ethernet for transport of legacy services. We expect however this to become less relevant for future networks. We find that using the functionality added to Ethernet through Carrier Ethernet, it now offers the same level of OAM functionality as OTN. Furthermore, OTN with static multiplexing supports a zero packet loss, low and fixed latency transport with full isolation between services. This is however also achieved in Ethernet using the IHON mechanisms. Furthermore, while providing the same level of deterministic service as OTN, Ethernet may additionally allow higher throughput utilization through statistical multiplexing using IHON mechanisms. OTNs Forward Error Correction capability is known to extend the reach of long-haul transport and is available for all OTN rates. For high Ethernet rates, 100 Gb/s and beyond, FEC is added, opening up for the same benefits as earlier only found for OTN. For these bitrates current maximum distance defined for Ethernet is 10 km.
OTN therefore shows benefits for legacy service and long-haul transport. For network segments less sensitive to physical transmission impairments, including metro, access and mobile backhaul and fronthaul, we find Ethernet to deliver the same level of service quality and availability while supporting a higher throughput efficiency than OTN. Hence, our conclusion is that today Ethernet is a beneficial choice for mobile transport, access and metro networks while only OTN is defined for high bitrate long-haul transport. Furthermore, as Ethernet today also contains FEC, up to now the prime OTN benefit for longhaul, it may replace OTN in the future for long-haul if IEEE chooses to define long-haul Ethernet interfaces.
This work is part of research project 5G-PICTURE supported by the European Horizon 2020 initiative.
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