Industry taskforce agrees on new architecture for small cell Wi-Fi integration


A joint Small Cell Forum and Wireless Broadband Alliance taskforce has delivered the first comprehensive architecture specification for integrated small cell and ‘trusted’ Wi-Fi (ISW) networks.

The work is described in a new white paper that includes an in-depth assessment of the requirement, as well as the technical documentation and specification of the architecture and interfaces of Trusted Wireless LAN (TWAN) segment of ISW networks.


The SCF/WBA taskforce has specifically focused on bringing clarity to the architecture of the TWAN that connects the access points, controllers and gateways of the integrated ISW network. This is work that has fallen outside of the scope of the 3GPP and has not been addressed by any other standards organizations. It draws on the results of the first comprehensive survey of MNOs, MSOs, integrated operators and vendors to fully understand the industry requirements and deployment considerations associated with ISW networks.

Significantly, the taskforce has agreed technical definitions for three TWAN interfaces. The new paper describes and compares the various protocol options, and addresses the three different modes of operation of Wi-Fi networks today.

Commenting on the taskforce’s conclusions, Alan Law, Small Cell Forum Chair said: “The network densification challenge means that nobody – least of all the operator community – is asking why we need small cells anymore. The question now is how do we use small cells, and all the available spectrum options, to deliver efficient automated and integrated mobile networks.

“This work with WBA tackles that challenge head-on and delivers a comprehensive set of answers. It is an excellent example of the benefits of industry collaboration with detailed input from both the operator and the vendor community,” he added.

The taskforce also agreed on a number of important deployment considerations including details on encryption requirements and the ability of integrated small cell Wi-Fi access points to co-exist with Hotspot 2 architecture and embrace both Carrier and Enterprise Wi-Fi.

In addition, the new paper includes the results of the operator and vendor survey looking at the business and technical challenges and opportunities of trusted ISW networks. In particular, the survey highlighted the potential for ISW networks to provide new services in Enterprise-led deployments. Other benefits of integration highlighted in the survey include the operational benefits derived from the ability to share both backhaul and power supplies.