An introduction to the awards from Chair of Judges Caroline Gabriel
At Small Cell Forum, we’re delighted to announce the launch of our annual awards for 2021. I’m honoured to chair the judging panel once again, and at the current time, it is more important than ever to recognize achievements that will help our industry, and all mobile network users, to rise to the ongoing challenges of the pandemic.
When we kicked off the process for our 2020 awards, we certainly couldn’t foresee the scale of the changes that would befall our industry, and the whole world, by the time we announced the winners. Like so many organizations, we have adapted our interactions and events to an online environment, placing heavy demands on the very connectivity technology that we develop. So, on May 11, Small Cells World Summit will return in a virtual format, for two days of discussion, presentation and debate that will culminate in our new-look awards ceremony on May 13.
As always, the awards will be judged by a fiercely objective panel of industry analysts and experts, and this year, you will have the chance to hear directly from those judges about their views on the industry. The presentation of the awards will take place following a special in-depth session in which the judges will discuss the key developments they have observed in the past year and the most important trends going forward.
Every year there are more entries for our awards, which are regarded throughout the mobile industry as a prestigious badge of honor, selected with a rigorous judging process. We expect a record-breaking turn-out again – so many of our conversations throughout the year have focused on the extra mile that so many vendors and operators have gone to adapt to the effects of the crisis, and to help customers, partners and the wider community to do the same. We anticipate that many of these efforts – and the ‘thinking out of the box’ that has gone into them – will be reflected in a diversity of interesting entries.
Diversity is a key theme of SCF’s work programme in 2021, and also of the awards. This year, there will be 10 main categories, plus some special awards, as usual. The categories have been reviewed and refreshed and some new additions are specifically designed to reward commercial success or innovative approaches by non-traditional deployers, service providers and vendors.
So, for instance, the awards for excellence in commercial deployment – always popular both with entrants and the wider industry – are now split between deployments by traditional mobile network operators, and those by alternative providers such as neutral hosts or private network operators. There is also an award for a technology, product or service that helps to enable diversification of the supply chain and lower barriers for models such as neutral host.
A very topical category will reward outstanding contribution to small cell open RAN platforms, which will be important enablers – at chip, network and software levels – to diversifying the supply chain and offering systems at all price points for different types of deployer. An important aspect of SCF’s contribution to the broader open networks push is to focus on common interfaces at silicon level and encourage a broad base of component makers, so it is appropriate that there is a new award this year, for an outstanding small cell chip or component.
Of course, some of the categories are familiar, maintaining consistency with previous years. One of the most interesting aspects of judging the awards, after more than a decade, is to see the changes in technology and business model that add up to a winner in long-standing categories such as outstanding small cell product and technology; outstanding software and services for small cell networks; or outstanding innovation in small cell business case.
And then there is a category that has been unchanged since the very first SCF awards – for social, economic or environmental impact of small cells. This is a constant factor because it emphasizes that a connectivity industry cannot be introspective, but must make networks and services valuable to communities everywhere, including the underserved, and must think in terms of global economic and environmental progress.
In 2021, this is more important than ever. We fervently hope that we will be announcing the awards winners in a world that is moving back towards some measure of normality – but if anything is to be learned from the pandemic in our industry, it is that affordable connectivity is a way to survive crisis, and our sector can thrive commercially while also promoting global progress.
We urge you to make sure you have the chance to win one of these highly regarded accolades, and look forward to seeing your entries.
You can view the categories and find out how to make an entry here.