remote radio head

This blog post is part of a series called “CommScope Definitions,” in which we will explain common terms in communications network infrastructure.

When we pass a cellular tower, we often see a small structure at the tower’s base. These six-foot tall climate controlled shelters house the base transceiver station (BTS) equipment that enables wireless communication between the mobile user and cellular network. Long runs of coaxial cable connect the BTS on the ground to antennas on the top of the tower. For decades this architecture remained unchanged. However, as cost and efficiency started becoming increasingly important to wireless operators, it was time for an alternative.

An alternative solution is a distributed base station, in which the majority of the base station equipment is no longer located in the shelter, but in an enclosure at the top of the tower near the antennas. This separate but integrated radio frequency (RF) unit is called a remote radio unit or remote radio head. It is compact in size; generally no larger than two feet by one foot by six inches.

The remote radio head is connected to the main, digital portion of the base station via a fiber optic link. This helps reduce the coaxial feed line losses, increase system efficiency, and provide a high level of flexibility in cell site construction. While remote radio heads offer unique advantages, they also come with complexity due to the sheer number of components that are required to build the unit.

Given that remote radio heads are installed at the top of the tower in very harsh environmental conditions, withstanding the weather is an important challenge. Ensuring optimal performance is also critical, as access to the tower top is harder and more costly if repair or replacement work needs to be done.

Key Takeaway: The wireless industry has increasingly moved to a distributed base station architecture with remote radio heads because of their better performance and overall cost savings, which are needed for 4G LTE network speeds and satisfying today’s mobile users.

Related Resources:

Ground Base vs. Remote Radio Head (RRH) System Return Loss Comparisons

About the Author

Ian Bourke

Ian Bourke is vice president for the Filters and Active Wireless product lines, based in Agrate, Italy and responsible for engineering, product development and product line management. Previously, Ian was director of product line management for Andrew Corporation, which was acquired by CommScope. Ian has served as vice president of business operations for Axis Network Technology and vice president of antenna line products at Remec.

See all posts by this author


5 comments for "CommScope Definitions: What is a Remote Radio Head?"
Bobbie A. Lumantao Friday, September 02, 2016 2:19 PM

Thanks for the difinions,i learned a lot regarding the RRA-RRH-RRU,but im thinking about on how to handle the installation.

Thank you very much,



P.J. Conover Thursday, June 28, 2018 6:19 PM

On average, what does a Remote Radio Head cost?

Joe Depa Friday, June 29, 2018 8:42 PM

Hello PJ, thank you for commenting. Ian or another CommScope rep will respond to your question directly. We provided them with your email address.

Israr Monday, March 25, 2019 6:13 PM

what is the difference between Remote unit and Remote Radio Head. can anyone explain this

Hari Chalise Wednesday, July 17, 2019 6:25 PM

Actually Radio Remote Head is the combination of RRU(Remote Radio Unit) and antenna combining to service the user equipments with BTS/BSC. I found the RRU functions, details and concept here also.

Add Your Comment

Please submit your comment using the form below