SCF announces ambitious 2023 work program

Work items

From open architectures and mission-critical specifications, to the policy and regulation that enables shared infrastructure and new business models – SCF’s 2023 work program has long-term and sustainable deployments at the heart of its mission. 

The new year brings fresh deliverables and an expanded focus for SCF and its members.  

In terms of outputs and uptake, the previous 12 months were extraordinarily productive – from essential specifications to blueprints, and enterprise requirements, to small cell Open RAN solutions, neutral hosting, private networks and emerging technologies like CV2X and 6G. Once again, our members supported real world deployments, while helping to lay the foundations for the next generation of agile and flexible mobile infrastructure.  

As we kick off 2023, we have an equally ambitious work program already underway, with important releases out very soon, including our much-anticipated Fronthaul calculator, accompanied by an intriguing analysis of split architecture options and associated use cases.  

Recent strategy sessions with the SCF Board and work-item leads amplified the ongoing importance of hybrid network architectures in delivering the high levels of flexible connectivity so many enterprises and organizations demand going forward. This informs not just our technology priorities, but also the regulatory and business model focus that will be required to deliver the infrastructure and services. Right now, industry sector influence and mechanisms capable of extracting value from these new models are still in their infancy.  

This is a critical area of focus for the industry as the pace of ecosystem realignment continues to build. 

The good news is that the key to unlocking network value is in our hands. Emerging business & sharing models are already proving their worth, and we are already seeing significant levels of new infrastructure investment from a wide range of service providers.  

SCF’s 2023 work program is about nurturing the ongoing realignment of our industry’s ecosystem, coupled with a steely focus on matching solutions to requirements rather than blindly jumping onto the next-G treadmill.  

A hybrid focused forum enables our innovation in the commoditization of the solutions that optimize options for deployers of networks that need solution compatibility all the way from public macro networks and isolated small scale private networks.  Hybrid focused roadmaps could be game-changing, there’s still much to be done. 

SCF work program 2023 – key focus areas 

Item 1: FAPI Core Specifications 

FAPI is a central piece of the small cell specifications, responsible for open small cell products. SCF has pioneered these specifications and continues to evolve them to meet the needs of the industry, while keeping pace with the 3GPP specifications in the Macro RAN area. In 2023, the highly organized and efficient team will continue to develop the next release v7 of the FAPI specs, addressing P4 and P19 interface updates, evolution of the P9 interface, as well as MIMO and maintenance updates for P5 & P7 interfaces.  

 Item 2: network-FAPI/Split6 Core Specifications 

network-FAPI/Split6 are an extension of the FAPI specs to be applied in a network environment, such as Disaggregated Split6 based Small Cell Networks, consisting of Distributed Radio Units (S-RU), Distributed Lower-Baseband Units (S-DU) and Centralized Higher-Baseband Units (S-CU). These specifications enable open small cell networks, ensuring multi-vendor interoperability between S-RU & S-DU. SCF has pioneered these specifications and will continue to enhance them in 2023. Specifically, non-ideal fronthaul and neutral host deployments will be addressed. 

 Item 3: Management Solutions for Small Cell Products and Small Cell Networks 

Traditionally, small cell products were managed as Customer Premise Equipments (CPEs) and solutions were pioneered by SCF leveraging specifications from the Broad Band Forum (BBF), resulting in TR069/TR196 solutions. More recently, other approaches have been taken for managing Disaggregated Small Cell Networks based on Netconf/Yang solutions, mainly developed by O-RAN Alliance. SCF will be working on strategizing and enhancing our current solutions to FAPI & network-FAPI/Split6 based solutions to align with these developments. 

 Item 4: FAPI & network-FAPI/Split6 Demos 

Interoperability between multiple vendors is the essential test for the openness of any specification. As such, SCF is planning real world demonstrations of FAPI and network-FAPI/Split6 solutions from selected vendors. These demos will prove the maturity of the specifications and commercial solutions for the marketplace. 

 Item 5: Private networks  

We will be focusing on an evolution of the blueprint groundwork undertaken in 2022. The priority for our deliverables will be to derive scalable models for lower complexity deployment scenarios – key areas of focus will be healthcare and manufacturing. But we also want to look at key policy issues including promoting better understanding of the role of private networks for cities and local authorities, as well as considering the role of roaming and spectrum allocation in the context of PCNs. 

 Item 6: Neutral host value proposition paper  

This work is already in progress via the neutral host group. Its aim is to promote a better understanding of the role of neutral hosts, their relationship to MNOs and other service providers, and the advantages of this evolving service provision landscape in the delivery of digital transformation for governments, economies, enterprises and society at large. 

 Item 7: Regulatory & Policy Group 

With the emergence of a diverse ecosystem of small cell product and network deployers, including Neutral Hosts and Private Enterprises, there is an increasing need to track and drive the regulatory and policy aspects of Small Cell Network (SCN) deployments. Towards meeting this need, SCF has formed a new working group, namely the Regulatory & Policy Group (RPG), which will focus on a broad range of selected activities, such as developing an internal RPG database, engaging with Regulators and Policy Makers in various regions of the globe, and pursuing targeted opportunities to shape the development of emerging regulations and policy.. 

 Item 8: Joint Operator Technical Specifications for Neutral Host In-building (JOTS NHIB ) 

The SCF membership has taken a close interest in the development of the UK JOTS initiative, publicly supporting the specifications, and in particular supporting and leveraging the JOTS NHIB approach.. This year will be the start of SCF energizing the globalization of JOTS with Network Operator and Neutral Host market engagement activities as well as high level requirements analysis. These activities will be directed by various working groups in SCF and strategically directed by the Board to assist with partnering of key industry stakeholders. 

 Item 9: Splits options 

The FAPI specification encodes split6 as an asset of SCF that is made available as an open interface to stakeholders such as telecoms infrastructure operators and product developers. In addition, SCF has invested in the development of a supporting tool (the fronthaul calculator to be released soon) that assesses the implications of disaggregation; not only for split6 but for other splits as well. This capability paves the way for the continued evaluation of the splits, as new features are standardized in 3GPP and the Forum prepares as a 3GPP market partner for the potential re-engineering of the splits in preparation of early 6G propositions.