Small Cell Forum (SCF), the telecoms organization driving densification worldwide, has outlined its work program for 2018-19, following the conclusion of its European plenary.
The wide-ranging brief covers every aspect of densification, including policy improvements for siting and spectrum, 5G-enabling technologies and the next iteration of its enterprise action plan. The program has been designed in consultation with industry partners and enterprise groups, and reflects the growing urgency to deploy small cell networks around the world to best support densification today and in preparation for future 5G networks.
Over the past 12 months the Forum has held Densification Summits in India, China and the United States, bringing together operators, vendors and other stakeholders to map clear and cost-effective migratory paths to dense, highly software-driven and automated 5G networks – with focus on improving coverage and targeted capacity at every stage along the way.
In adopting this approach, the Forum has been able to gather a broad range of requirements from the industry and enterprise as to what future networks should enable; providing detailed targets to work towards.
One of the items on the new work agenda, the edge computing landscape, is an excellent example of an area where a common framework will be essential to avoid fragmentation, but where every operator will deploy differently, to support different use cases.
Other important technical topics, which were identified as key operator requirements or gaps, include a full roadmap for orchestration and SON. Unsurprisingly, on the eve of commercial 5G, many of the issues which operators highlighted relate to that new standard – for instance, how it will interwork with WiFi, and what a 5G small cell for massive IoT applications should look like. And some of the Forum’s most important 4G technologies will be revisited to plot a 5G migration, including the nFAPI interface for virtualized small cell networks.
“Many industries are looking to use mobile technology to transform their processes and services, so the Forum has been as active in gathering enterprise requirements as those of operators. As with operators, each organization’s business goals may be different, but they will only be able to access interoperable, affordable and easily deployable technology if there are common platforms,” said David Orloff, Chair of Small Cell Forum. “Our approach brings together enterprises, operators, vendors and other stakeholders, working collectively to tackle a wide variety of challenges and business models.”
One of the most important foundations of the new work program is the Enterprise Requirements Action Plan (SCF215), which is based on a year of in-depth discussion within SCF’s Enterprise Advisory Council. This identifies requirements which are common to all sectors, and can be addressed by a unified small cell platform, while also drilling down on the specific variations within individual markets – hospitality, healthcare and commercial property have been particular areas of focus so far.
A transparent and rational regulatory regime is essential to support the changes that are needed both for operators and enterprises. SCF has been increasingly engaged with spectrum regulators and national and municipal authorities to help them understand the benefits of densification and how it can be accelerated by the right rules. Important activities in 2018-19 will take this work further, to remove more of the barriers which still exist to at-scale deployment.