Small Cell Forum is currently finalizing its work program for 2018-19, and is setting some ambitious goals. From spectrum and site policies, to 5G technology, to an enterprise action plan, the work items will cover every aspect of densification, reflecting the growing urgency to deploy small cell networks round the world.
Members will get the chance to shape the processes and platforms for densification at a critical time, when many kinds of wireless service providers are planning their next generation deployments. Of course, a program is only credible if it reflects the real world concerns and objectives of those operators, which is why SCF invested so much time and effort in 2017-18, in gathering requirements from many markets around the globe.
Densification Summits in India and China, last summer’s Partners’ Day in Atlanta, industry events in London, Silicon Valley and South America – all these brought together operators and other stakeholders, with a wide variety of challenges and business models.
What united them was the need to map out a clear, cost-effective migration path to a dense, highly software-driven, highly automated 5G network – while improving coverage and targeted capacity at every stage on the way. To address those common needs requires a unified platform and process, with global economies of scale, but with sufficient flexibility to be applied to every individual business case.
One of the items on the new work agenda, the edge computing landscape, is a good example of an area where a common framework will be essential to avoid fragmentation, but where every operator will deploy differently, to support different use cases.
Other important technical topics, which were identified as key operator requirements or gaps, include a full roadmap for orchestration and SON. Unsurprisingly, on the eve of commercial 5G, many of the issues which operators highlighted relate to that new standard – for instance, how it will interwork with WiFi, and what a 5G small cell for massive IoT applications should look like. And some of the Forum’s most important 4G technologies will be revisited to plot a 5G migration, including the nFAPI interface for virtualized small cell networks.
Many industries are looking to use mobile technology to transform their processes and services, so the Forum has been as active in gathering enterprise requirements as those of operators. As with the operators, each organization’s business goals may be different, but they will only be able to access interoperable, affordable and easily deployable technology if there are common platforms.
One of the most important foundations of the new work program is the Requirements Action Plan (SCF215), which is based on a year of in-depth discussion within SCF’s Enterprise Advisory Council. This identifies requirements which are common to all sectors, and can be addressed by a unified small cell platform, while also drilling down on the specific variations within individual markets – hospitality, healthcare and commercial property have been particular areas of focus so far, for instance.
A transparent and rational regulatory regime is essential to support the changes that are needed both for operators and enterprises. SCF has been increasingly engaged with spectrum regulators and national and municipal authorities to help them understand the benefits of densification and how it can be accelerated by the right rules. Important activities in 2018-19 will take this work further, to remove some of the barriers which still exist to at-scale deployment.
For instance, SCF will work with all the stakeholders in the urban chain on a consensus definition of a small cell, which will be acceptable to all US municipalities despite their many differences, and so make it easier for them to approve new sites and installations.
This is yet another example of the crucial work of creating common definitions and frameworks which will guarantee scale and interoperability, but still support a host of different businesses. Having spent the past year gathering requirements across all the regions and vertical industries, now SCF must define common platforms which can address all of them – and which the individual stakeholders can take back and implement for their particular use cases.
This will involve working on a huge number of different topics in the year ahead, to address all the pieces of the densification jigsaw. That will only be possible with the continued, active involvement of as many members as possible. To be sure your voice is heard in this process, all SCF Members are urged to attend SCF’s Work Plan Webinar on July 12 to learn more, and see how you could contribute. This event will provide full updates on the planned work items, and those under consideration, with contributions from all the working group chairs.
If you have not already received an invite to the webinar, want more details or have questions about joining SCF, please contact Member Services.