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A radio access network is a technology that connects individual devices to other parts of a network through radio connections. It is a major part of modern telecommunications, with 3G and 4G network connections for mobile phones being examples of radio access networks.
The idea, pioneered decades ago, is that a handset or other item can be wirelessly connected to a backbone or core network that transmits over the PSTN system or some other infrastructure. The radio access network gets the signal to and from the wireless end point, so it can travel with other traffic over networks built with a collective and deliberate purpose.
Some types of radio access networks include GRAN and GERAN, which utilize base transmission stations and base transmission controllers to manage radio links for both circuit-switched and packet-switched core networks, as well as UTRAN and E-UTRAN, which often connect end points to the common platforms of the PSTN or the Internet.