SCF gears up for one of its most critical Plenaries to date

We’re gearing up for Small Cell Forum’s next plenary meeting, which will be held in London on September 16 and 17. Every plenary is hugely important for the Forum, enabling members from every corner of the industry to exchange views and debate next steps.

But this event is particularly significant. It is, in many ways, the last chance to define some of the key enablers of dense 5G networks, and ensure there is a common, workable approach to implementing small cells at huge scale. Operators are starting to plan large-scale roll-out of dense networks, indoors and out, and it is essential that they have the right toolkits and blueprints to make their deployments smooth and commercially attractive.

On the cusp of wide-scale 5G deployment, and a time of disruption to traditional architectures and business models, the small cell sector has key decisions ahead, which will shape the way that mobile networks are rolled out and operated, for years to come.

At SCF, we already have a detailed agenda, covering the profound technical and commercial issues that are facing the industry, from open network architectures to private networks to extreme automation. Many of these issues were identified and discussed at the Small Cell World Summit in London in May, which resulted in a very clear set of priorities for further work.

Now we return to London to start to build on that initial work. Working groups will be able to report on early progress to the wider membership, to gain feedback and agree next steps. And the discussions and debates will help to identify further work items, or to enrich the ongoing programmes.

There are seven main areas of focus in what promises to be a packed but rich agenda. One of these is particularly appropriate, given that the Plenary will be collocated this year with the Edge Computing Congress. The Forum will examine monetization strategies for small cells combined with edge computing, building on work that was kicked off last year in the USA plenary and continued at SCWS. No doubt there will be interesting exchange of ideas and case studies between the two events, with many Plenary delegates also attending the Congress.

Full details of each of the main agenda items are discussed in separate posts (a turning point in 5G standards, with wider industry cooperation , Automation, geolocation and ML, and Edge + small cells: a dream team, once SCF addresses some key challenges) but in summary, the Plenary will include detailed discussions, often spread over multiple sessions, about the following issues, each of which will be critical to the way densification proceeds in the coming few years.

  • Edge computing:

Monetization strategies and lead commercial use cases; identifying standards gaps, especially with regard to multivendor CUPS (control/user plane separation) support.

  • FAPI and nFAPI standards:

Further development of these core SCF specifications for 4G and 5G small cells, including standards for P19 (RF front end) and P4 (network listen results) interfaces.

There will be discussion of how to align terminology with the ORAN Alliance to ensure related efforts are coordinated, and a comparison of two key 3GPP functional split for disaggregated 5G networks – options 6 and 7.

  • Precision planning for small cells:

The Plenary will discuss recommendations for increased location accuracy which would allow for very precise planning of small cells.  SCF has published a joint paper on the topic with 5G Americas, and this should lead to increased industry awareness of these issues, and agreement on common requirements.

  • Automation and SON (self-optimizing networks):

The TECH working group will present recommendations and its draft paper and the aim will be to agree on the findings and discuss how to maximize their impact on the wider industry.

  • Health concerns in dense 5G networks:

There has been considerable negative press about the potential risks of 5G, some of it ill-informed, and SCF aims to be part of a broad industry effort to provide education and information resources for all members to use to reassure their partners and customers.

  • Neutral hosts and private networks:

This was one of the most prominent topics at SCWS and to a large extent, crosses over with other topics such as those about edge computing. Specific items will include ways to lower barriers to these new business models so that densification can be accelerated, especially indoors.

  • Management models for 5G:

SCF is collaborating with the Linux Foundation-hosted ONAP (Open Network Automation Protocol) project in order to update the Forum’s management model. This will add new details on management of disaggregated small cells, when they require NETCONF/YANG support, and will align with ONAP recommendations.

The outcomes of the discussion in all of these areas will be vital to shaping the way that we can deploy and monetize small cell networks at the start of the 5G era. We urge you to sign up for the Plenary so you can ensure your organization’s viewpoints and interests are reflected in the action plan. This will be one of the most influential and important programmes we have seen at an SCF Plenary, as well as a chance to network and exchange experiences with a wide range of stakeholders.

We look forward to welcoming you in London!

Pre-registation for the event is essential.  The plenary is open to SCF members only.