5G Backhaul Challenges and Emerging Research Directions: A Survey

(April 2016)


5G is the next cellular generation and is expected to quench the growing thirst for taxing data rates and to enable the Internet of Things. Focused research and standardization work have been addressing the corresponding challenges from the radio perspective while employing advanced features, such as network densification, massive multiple-input-multiple-output antennae, coordinated multi-point processing, inter-cell interference mitigation techniques, carrier aggregation, and new spectrum exploration. Nevertheless, a new bottleneck has emerged: the backhaul. The ultra-dense and heavy traffic cells should be connected to the core network through the backhaul, often with extreme requirements in terms of capacity, latency, availability, energy, and cost efficiency. This pioneering survey explains the 5G backhaul paradigm, presents a critical analysis of legacy, cutting-edge solutions, and new trends in backhauling, and proposes a novel consolidated 5G backhaul framework. A new joint radio access and backhaul perspective is proposed for the evaluation of backhaul technologies which reinforces the belief that no single solution can solve the holistic 5G backhaul problem. This paper also reveals hidden advantages and shortcomings of backhaul solutions, which are not evident when backhaul technologies are inspected as an independent part of the 5G network. This survey is key in identifying essential catalysts that are believed to jointly pave the way to solving the beyond-2020 backhauling challenge. Lessons learned, unsolved challenges, and a new consolidated 5G backhaul vision are thus presented.

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