The Small Cell Forum has held its first ‘virtual plenary’, providing members with an online update on the first quarter of an extremely busy year of activities. It highlighted some of the big themes for 2016, including a deeper regional focus, with a series of high profile engagements in various key markets; and the build-up to the next major Release, which focuses on HetNet and SON.
CEO Sue Monahan kicked off by sharing details of a very successful Mobile World Congress for the Forum. The Small Cell Zone was busier than ever and Release 6 was launched, providing members with over 20 technical and business documents to help them with deployments for the Smart Enterprise.
She also updated members on an important series of projects which will deepen the Forum’s impact and influence in key regional markets. The organization has set a goal of working as closely as possible with operators, regulators and other stakeholders in order to address specific regional market conditions, and this year, has already taken a highly visible role in small cell events in MENA (Middle East and North Africa), Latin America and Asia.
The Forum cooperates with many other bodies in this work, and an important project for 2016 is to produce a high impact paper, in partnership with the GSMA, for the Latin America region. This will make a powerful case for the benefits of small cells and dense HetNets, to regulators in this region of high mobile growth. By addressing the specific regulatory environment and operator concerns in major markets like Brazil and Mexico, the Forum will help to accelerate adoption, and the paper could be the template for a series of regional documents for the GSMA’s broad operator membership.
Another important alliance is to produce and cross-market content with 5G Americas, whose white papers have a very high reputation and level of impact in their region. Initially, the two organizations will cooperate on two papers, one on small cell siting and deployment challenges and one on neutral host small cells.
The session then moved onto the key theme for 2016, HetNet/SON. Chair Alan Law set out the primary requirements emerging from the Forum’s operator members, including simple deployment, a high level of automation and better access to city infrastructure and other sites. This set the stage for an in-depth preview of the content of Release 7, led by the HetNet/SON champions – David Orloff of AT&T, Joe Thome of Airhop and Martin Ljungberg of Ericsson.
From detailed HetNet definitions and architectures to deployment case studies to exclusive operator research, Release 7 is set to provide members with a comprehensive set of guidelines for real world planning of dense HetNets in the coming few years. The most immediate priorities were identified as reduced cost through automation and SON; improved voice and data coverage indoors; and more offload from the macro network.
In all, 10 key challenges have been identified, including multivendor interoperability, virtualized SON and energy efficiency, and these will be the topics of work items and release documents for the two phases of Release 7. The full schedule of these Release items was set out by Julius Robson, reflecting an intensive ongoing program of work which is involving more members than ever, enabling them to have a direct influence over the future directions of the HetNet.
Small Cell Forum Members can access a recording of the virtual plenary and view the slides via the member site.