Forum Works to Give Small Cells an Even More Powerful Punch
The increasing need for densification of small cells is intensifying efforts to fully leverage the benefits of virtualization, open source and standards to empower efficiencies, new business opportunities and streamlined solutions.
The Small Cell Forum -- which has about 150 members and an Enterprise Advisory Council that includes Marriott Hotels, Grange Hotels and CBRE -- is focused on both hyper-dense networks and enabling the digitized enterprise, David Orloff, chairman of the Small Cell Forum and director of RAN product information at AT&T, tells UBB2020. (See Small Cell Forum Helps Mobile Industry Deliver Practical and Profitable 5G.)
"What we're now trying to do in the Forum is remove the gaps, the fragmentation, the interpretation -- and create uniform approaches for doing the actual implementation that is efficient and practical and profitable," he says.
At Mobile World Congress in Barcelona earlier this month, the Small Cell Forum outlined partnerships with NGMN (Next Generation Mobile Networks); ETSI (European Telecommunications Standards Institute); TIA (Telecommunications Industry Association) and GSMA (Groupe Speciale Mobile Association) to decide how to work together on various joint initiatives.
"We're driving the technology and working with the specifics of the technology where the best standards are, and I think that's critical at some point on the path to 5G. It is equally as critical towards these process issues. It's not just regulatory," Orloff says. "It's process for implementing enterprises. It's working with the industry to get standards in wiring or towers. It goes on and on and on."
The Forum unveiled Release 9, the "foundation for deploying hyper-dense networks," during MWC, he adds. The release gives structure and definition around hyper-dense networks, and initiates a deliverable for removal of the barriers with municipalities, with the process for how to get small cells deployed more efficiently as part of a hyper-dense network, says Orloff.
Part of this focus includes embracing open standards to enable virtualization. The Small Cell Forum's nFAPI is an extension of its FAPI interface, designed to allow different vendors' small cells to interoperate.
"I think open source will create uniformity, as long as the operators push that open source environment, which operators are," says Orloff. "I think it will make things more efficient and it allows other companies to get into the market from the full host of the ecosystem."
As industry evolves toward 5G, it's important to create technologies, policies and regulations that simplify and enhance solutions of today and tomorrow, Orloff says.
"There are functionalities that enable high capacity that are going to get added over time as we head towards 5G. At some point, you start looking at millimeter wave and radio interfaces, as well. But there is going to be a buildup of all the technology even before that. It's an evolution; we're not going to end up in 2020 and say, 'It's now 5G. Boom!' We're going to work towards there and then it's going to be a duality type network," he says.
"LTE is still going to have a foundation, even with 5G," he adds. "It's really the focus of higher capacity, getting closer to the subscriber, which means densification and that means small cells."
Operators also can help enterprises implement their own small-cell networks. Hospitality, healthcare and property management markets increasingly embrace the opportunity to provide high-quality, campus-wide broadband for efficiency, mobility and connectivity, says Orloff. When enterprises order and deploy their own small cells, they must then connect it to their broadband service, delivering new revenue for service providers, he says.
"The benefit to the operator is less operating expense," adds Orloff. "They're still going to connect to [providers'] networks. We're getting dense solutions to connect up easier to our solutions. It just reduces our operational investments."
— Alison Diana, Editor, UBB2020. Follow us on Twitter @UBB2020 or @alisoncdiana.
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