Remote radio heads have been used in somewhat different form since the mid-1990s, in distributed antenna systems for in-building wireless.
However according to ABI research director Lance Wilson, cellular base stations are now undergoing a design revolution. A base station was traditionally a rack of equipment inside a shelter. That design is now becoming anachronistic because it is expensive, and because the required coaxial cable running up the tower to the antennas often results in significant losses of power. The solution: “distributed base stations” in which the RF portion (along with suitable processing and an optical interface) is placed into a weatherproof box mounted on the tower near the antennas. This is the remote radio head.
“Reducing operating costs is especially important now,” said Wilson in a statement, “so the remote radio head has become an integral part of these new distributed base stations. Remote radio heads are also very ‘smart’: almost all are software-controlled and can be configured remotely to handle a variety of technologies within a given air interface family.”