One of the items that was proposed during the 3GPP RAN Plenary #75 held in Dubrovnik, Croatia, was Study on Integrated Access and Backhaul for NR (NR = New Radio). RP-17148 provides more details as follows:
One of the potential technologies targeted to enable future cellular network deployment scenarios and applications is the support for wireless backhaul and relay links enabling flexible and very dense deployment of NR cells without the need for densifying the transport network proportionately.
Due to the expected larger bandwidth available for NR compared to LTE (e.g. mmWave spectrum) along with the native deployment of massive MIMO or multi-beam systems in NR creates an opportunity to develop and deploy integrated access and backhaul links. This may allow easier deployment of a dense network of self-backhauled NR cells in a more integrated manner by building upon many of the control and data channels/procedures defined for providing access to UEs. An example illustration of a network with such integrated access and backhaul links is shown in Figure 1, where relay nodes (rTRPs) can multiplex access and backhaul links in time, frequency, or space (e.g. beam-based operation).
The operation of the different links may be on the same or different frequencies (also termed ‘in-band’ and ‘out-band’ relays). While efficient support of out-band relays is important for some NR deployment scenarios, it is critically important to understand the requirements of in-band operation which imply tighter interworking with the access links operating on the same frequency to accommodate duplex constraints and avoid/mitigate interference.
In addition, operating NR systems in mmWave spectrum presents some unique challenges including experiencing severe short-term blocking that cannot be readily mitigated by present RRC-based handover mechanisms due to the larger time-scales required for completion of the procedures compared to short-term blocking. Overcoming short-term blocking in mmWave systems may require fast L2-based switching between rTRPs, much like dynamic point selection, or modified L3-based solutions. The above described need to mitigate short-term blocking for NR operation in mmWave spectrum along with the desire for easier deployment of self-backhauled NR cells creates a need for the development of an integrated framework that allows fast switching of access and backhaul links. Over-the-air (OTA) coordination between rTRPs can also be considered to mitigate interference and support end-to-end route selection and optimization.
The benefits of integrated access and backhaul (IAB) are crucial during network rollout and the initial network growth phase. To leverage these benefits, IAB needs to be available when NR rollout occurs. Consequently, postponing IAB-related work to a later stage may have adverse impact on the timely deployment of NR access.
There is also an interesting presentation on this topic from Interdigital on the 5G Crosshaul group here. I found the following points worth noting:
- This will create a new type of interference (access-backhaul interference) to mitigate and will require sophisticated (complex) scheduling of the channel resources (across two domains, access and backhaul).
- One of the main drivers is Small cells densification calling for cost-effective and low latency backhauling
- The goal would be to maximize efficiency through joint optimization/integration of access and backhaul resources
- The existing approach of Fronthaul using CPRI will not scale for 5G, self-backhaul may be an alternative in the shape of wireless fronthaul
Let me know what you think.