Small Cell Forum Operator, Vendor Members Collaborate to Combat 5G Fragmentation

Small Cell Forum (SCF) has hosted its first dedicated 5G vendor and operator workshop, bringing together leading industry players to progress the enabling technologies for next generation networks.

Championing interoperability and consistency in the development of key enabling technologies, SCF has a vital role to play ensuring the industry avoids fragmentation on the path to 5G.

Workshop participants included AT&T, Cisco, Ericsson, Huawei, Microsemi, Nokia, Parallel Wireless, SpiderCloud and Vodafone. The session was led by outgoing SCF chair Alan Law of Vodafone and chair-designate David Orloff of AT&T. Designed to support the Forum’s work on dense HetNet deployment and digitized enterprise, the event delivered strong opinions and valuable insights, helping to validate the Forum’s approach to 5G migration.

“Fragmentation represents the single biggest risks to 5G achieving its full potential. Proprietary and pre-standard efforts, and closed-doors partnerships, threaten the creation of a unified platform which is commercially accessible to all,” said SCF Chair David Orloff. “The Forum has always been committed to open architectures and transparent, inclusive processes, and these are even more important as 5G approaches. With the support of our membership, the Forum has a central role to making these next generation networks a success.”

With ever increasing proliferation of data traffic, mobile operators have accepted that small cells will be a key solution on the path to a 5G HetNet. And with small cells at the heart of operators’ move towards multi-technology, multi-domain, multivendor networks; the Forum is ideally placed to provide a blueprint for deployment now, and a roadmap to the future.

“Harmonization is essential even before 3GPP publishes its specifications for 5G, so that common requirements are fed into the deliberation and development process,” said outgoing SCF Chair Alan Law. “The best route to protect operators from fragmentation is to achieve harmony in the higher layers of the network, with common specs and APIs to enable unified network management, orchestration, security and applications – whatever the underlying access network.”

Workshop contributions ranged from 5G’s requirements and potential use cases, to the key technology building blocks of future 5G networks. Specifically, this included discussions focused on:

· Understanding service and customer requirements for 5G

· Recognizing the characteristics and development requirements associated with foundational technologies like SON, network slicing, self-backhauling and mmWave

· Understanding how best to leverage the benefits of small cell virtualization

· Recognizing the characteristics and development requirements associated network architectures in the evolution to 5G

· Understanding and prioritizing the development of automation and orchestration functionality

Key messages from the workshop included the importance of a flexible platform which can support a wide range of use cases – some of those highlighted included AT&T’s plans for high speed fixed wireless, and by contrast, a presentation from Cisco on ultra-low latency smart factory networks.

Small Cell Forum will host a second 5G Workshop at its next Plenary in Dallas, Texas on 1 November 2016. The outputs from both sessions will inform and enrich SCF’s two main work streams – Deploying hyperdense HetNets and Enabling digitized Enterprise.