Software defined mobile networks: concept, survey, and research directions

Tao Chen, Marja Matinmikko, Xianfu Chen, Xuan Zhou, Petri Ahokangas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

120 Citations (Scopus)


This article provides a brief overview on the current development of software-defined mobile networks (SDMNs). Software defined networking is seen as a promising technology to manage the complexity in communication networks. The need for SDMN comes from the complexity of network management in 5G mobile networks and beyond, driven by increasing mobile traffic demand, heterogeneous wireless environments, and diverse service requirements. The need is strong to introduce new radio network architecture by taking advantage of software oriented design, the separation of the data and control planes, and network virtualization to manage complexity and offer flexibility in 5G networks. Clearly, software oriented design in mobile networks will be fundamentally different from SDN for the Internet, because mobile networks deal with the wireless access problem in complex radio environments, while the Internet mainly addresses the packet forwarding problem. Specific requirements in mobile networks shape the development of SDMN. In this article we present the needs and requirements of SDMN, with particular focus on the software-defined design for radio access networks. We analyze the fundamental problems in radio access networks that call for SDN design and present an SDMN concept. We give a brief overview on current solutions for SDMN and standardization activities. We argue that although SDN design is currently focusing on mobile core networks, extending SDN to radio access networks would naturally be the next step. We identify several research directions on SDN for radio access networks and expect more fundamental studies to release the full potential of software-defined 5G networks.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)126-133
JournalIEEE Communications Magazine
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2015
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • software defined mobile networks
  • 5G networks
  • radio access networks
  • RAN
  • system architecture
  • SDN
  • standardization

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