Small Cell Forum puts orchestration, SON on road map

The work program for the Small Cell Forum for the coming year covers “every aspect of densification,” including policy improvements for siting and spectrum, 5G-enabling technologies and the next iteration of its enterprise action plan, according to SCF.

One of the work items focuses on the edge computing landscape, which the forum describes as an excellent example of an area where a common framework will be essential to avoid fragmentation—but one where every operator will deploy differently to support different use cases.

Indeed, the pushing of intelligence, processing and cloud services to the edge of the network is making the small cell into a “gold mine” by adding many more services to the connectivity, according to SCF. Technologies like ETSI’s Multi-access Edge Computing or the OpenFog initiative, which is now the basis of an IEEE standard, are ways to distribute cloud services widely and bring them close to the users, supported along with radios on small cells equipped with processors or in separate miniservers. The distributed topology reduces latency and backhaul costs and improves responsiveness and QoS for users, the forum notes.

The forum has been bringing operators, vendors and other stakeholders together as part of “Densification Summits” that it has held in the U.S., China and India over the past 12 months, discussing how to map clear and cost-effective migration paths to dense, software-driven and automated 5G networks. As such, the forum says it has been able to gather a range of requirements from industry and enterprise as to what future networks should enable.

Another important task for the forum is developing a full road map 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,” the SCF stated. “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.”

According to the forum, one of the most important foundations of the new work program is the Enterprise, which is based on a year of in-depth discussions within SCF’s Enterprise Advisory Council. It identifies requirements that 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 such as hospitality, healthcare and commercial property.

SCF says it 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. Activities in 2018-19 will take this work further, to remove more of the barriers that challenge at-scale deployment.

RELATED: FCC approves new rules aimed at speeding deployment of small cells and 5G

Last month, the FCC voted to approve rules aimed at speeding up the deployment of small cells and other 5G network equipment by regulating in part the fees and timelines cities and states can impose on wireless network operators and other wireless players.

U.S. outdoor small cell antenna shipments increased 84% in 2017, according to a report from EJL Wireless Research. The firm is forecasting that U.S. outdoor small cell antenna shipments will increase by 75% in 2018 due to increasing demand from all four U.S. national mobile operators as well as neutral host operators.