Small Cell Forum (SCF), the telecoms organization driving network densification worldwide, has made significant progress developing APIs (application programming interfaces) to enable an open RAN and allow interoperability between 5G chips, software stacks, equipment and networks from different vendors.
SCF’s Technology and 5G Working Group (Chair: Prabhakar Chitrapu – AT&T; Co-Chairs: Neeraj Gupta – NEC, Ravi Sinha – Reliance Jio) is developing two sets of APIs which support multivendor interoperability, at chip, stack, equipment, and network levels. Open interoperability will transform the economics of deploying wireless networks and enable a competitive and innovative ecosystem.
SCF’s APIs will complement work by 3GPP and other industry initiatives to create common interfaces to support multivendor networks. The work will contribute solutions which build on a decade of work on supporting the specific requirements of dense multivendor networks, whose economics rely on an open ecosystem.
The first 5G FAPI release will be an extension of the original FAPI specifications, which are incorporated in most small cell chips and equipment today. These specs define internal interfaces between the chipset and software layers, allowing for interoperability between the 3G, 4G or 5G PHY, and higher layer software elements, such as MAC layer.
This addresses equipment manufacturer requirements that are not necessarily within the current scope of 3GPP specs. The 5G-FAPI work item is being led by Intel’s Clare Somerville and Qualcomm Technologies Inc, with executional support from a wide-ranging and influential team of companies.
The second release is 5G nFAPI (network FAPI) which further extends the concept to split RAN/SCNs and specifies an interface between remote and centralized units of a 5G base station (small cell or gNodeB). This is expected to be especially important for, both indoor and outdoor, 5G Split RAN/SCN network architectures, which are critical for dense, cost-efficient, high-performance deployments as well as many 5G use cases.
“This work is important to accelerate the availability of open, deployable solutions to meet pent-up demand for in-building coverage. While the broader industry has to decide on its priorities among all the 3GPP’s defined splits for virtualized RANs, SCF is focused on one architecture, which will enable real world 5G use cases. This will reduce time to market for commercial equipment,” said David Orloff, Chair of the Small Cell Forum.
“Interoperable multivendor networks are essential to the economics of dense 5G, and that means open interfaces are required at silicon and network level,” said AT&T’s Prabhakar Chitrapu, Chair of SCF’s Technology and 5G Working Group. “The industry has an array of options to consider, and it will take time for a stable ecosystem to develop. But the SCF’s laser focus on small cell products, architectures and network interfaces enables us to drive deployable, open 5G solutions to commercial readiness quickly. And our collaboration work with other industry organizations addressing open initiatives will greatly increase 5G-(n)FAPI’s impact and scale of adoption.”