Zainab Zaidi, Vasilis Friderikos, Zarrar Yousaf, Simon Fletcher, Mischa Dohler, Hamid Aghvami

For many, this is no longer a valid question and the case is considered settled with SDN/NFV (Software Defined Networking/Network Function Virtualization) providing the inevitable innovation enablers solving many outstanding management issues regarding 5G. However, given the monumental task of softwarization of radio access network (RAN) while 5G is just around the corner and some companies have started unveiling their 5G equipment already, the concern is very realistic that we may only see some point solutions involving SDN technology instead of a fully SDN-enabled RAN. This survey paper identifies all important obstacles in the way and looks at the state of the art of the relevant solutions. This survey is different from the previous surveys on SDN-based RAN as it focuses on the salient problems and discusses solutions proposed within and outside SDN literature. Our main focus is on fronthaul, backward compatibility, supposedly disruptive nature of SDN deployment, business cases and monetization of SDN related upgrades, latency of general purpose processors (GPP), and additional security vulnerabilities, softwarization brings along to the RAN. We have also provided a summary of the architectural developments in SDN-based RAN landscape as not all work can be covered under the focused issues. This paper provides a comprehensive survey on the state of the art of SDN-based RAN and clearly points out the gaps in the technology.

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