A landmark year for small cells, and exciting challenges ahead for the Forum
SCF Chair David Orloff rounds up a landmark year for small cells.
Looking back on 2016, it’s clear that this has been a landmark year for SCF, and of course for me, having taken over the chair’s role in September. It is a real privilege to be chairing the Forum just as the small cell industry heads into a hugely significant new phase of its history. In 2017, we will see densification, expanded enterprise deployments and the prospect of 5G, all accelerating adoption and shaping new platforms. All of these new technologies will rely heavily of small cells.
Beneath the headline figures – crossing the chasm in enterprise deployments at the end of 2015, growing roll-outs of urban and rural networks – there has been a huge amount of work done by a wide group of dedicated members from all around the ecosystem. My predecessor as chair, Alan Law, steered the Forum through a transition from a largely residential market, to one where small cells are underpinning large enterprise and public access deployments.
The next step is to build on those beginnings, stepping up the pressure on governments and cities to simplify deployment processes; talking a new language of business benefit, not technology, to key target enterprise sectors such as hospitality.
All this will help to build scale and support new services enabled by targeted capacity and location awareness. This year, the Forum has coordinated all its workgroup activities within two main streams – hyper-densification and digital enterprise. These will be the critical areas of growth for small cells in the coming years, and the Forum has initiated a range of projects to help ensure they can fulfil their potential.
One of the key initiatives for 2017 is our work on communicating the role of small cells in the Enterprise. Our Enterprise Task Force seeks to foster understanding and encourage the use of small cell technology within the Enterprise (including Hospitality, Healthcare, Property Management and others). The campaign comprises a range of targeted marketing material, PR pieces and engagement with industry events, all designed to forge greater ties with the Enterprise industry. At it’s core is the Enterprise Advisory Council, made of up individuals working within Enterprise organizations to deepen our links and understanding of industry needs.
In 2016, much of the work done by the groups was encapsulated in the latest Releases, which have focused on the HetNet, and on virtualization. Both these are complex architectural changes which will affect technology, deployment and monetization, and will be important stepping stones to 5G. All these aspects are covered in the latest release documents, providing comprehensive blueprints for deployment, and I’d like to thank everybody who contributed to this impressive body of work.
Those thanks extend to everyone who supported other important areas of the Forum’s work this year, including the LTE Plugfest, and deepening cooperations with other industry bodies such as the GSMA, 5G Americas and Wireless Broadband Alliance.
On the technical side, two of the Forum’s most important publications ever were the HetNet Architecture Framework and the nFAPI specification. Both these provide the core tools required to support a flexible, deployable small cell network, combining physical and virtualized systems, and based on standards which make it future-proof for 5G.
Another important aspect of the Forum’s work in 2016 was to step up communications with regulators, city authorities and mobile operators round the world to understand the issues and challenges which face would-be deployers on a regional basis.
All these activities have produced valuable and tangible results in 2016, in terms of increased deployment and a widening range of use cases and platforms. I am confident that the process will continue and accelerate in 2017, and that, at the end of 2017, I will be reflecting on even greater achievements and an industry that really has achieved scale.
That will be, once again, down to the efforts of our members. Thank you to everyone, and I encourage you all to participate in as many initiatives as possible next year. The quality of the Forum’s work, and its ability to influence and drive commercial adoption, relies on contributions from as many players as possible. That ensures your views are represented in our work and that the outcomes are of real value to your organization’s small cell efforts.
I look forward to another year of progress, collaboration and success – and of course fun – in 2017, and wish you all a very happy holiday and prosperous new year.