Future mobile carrier networks need to address the predicted growth in mobile traffic volume which is expected to have explosive growth in the next years mainly driven by video and web applications.
Based on the expected capacity demand increase, mobile network operators (MNOs) are required to increase capital (CAPEX) and operational expenses (OPEX) accordingly.
However, as cellular networks move from being voice-centric to data-centric, increase in revenue is not keeping pace with the increase in traffic volume.
Forecasted future mobile networks capacity requirements together with the decreasing operators’ benefits margin have led to network sharing being considered a key business model for reducing future deployment and operational costs.
This article presents a survey of cellular network sharing, which is a key building block for virtualizing future mobile carrier networks in order to address the explosive capacity demand of mobile traffic, and reduce the CAPEX and OPEX burden faced by operators to handle this demand.
We start by reviewing the 3GPP network sharing standardized functionality followed by a discussion on emerging business models calling for additional features.
Then we provide an overview of the RAN sharing enhancements currently being considered by the 3GPP RSE Study Item is presented.
Based on the developing network sharing needs, a summary of the state of the art of mobile carrier network virtualization is provided, encompassing RAN sharing as well as a higher level of base station programmability and customization for the sharing entities.
As an example of RAN virtualization techniques feasibility, a solution based on spectrum sharing is presented: the network virtualization substrate (NVS), which can be natively implemented in base stations.
NVS performance is evaluated in an LTE network by means of simulation, shoing that it can meet the needs of future virtual- ized mobile carrier networks in terms of isolation, utilization, and customization.
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