The Small Cells World Summit is always a highlight of the year, bringing together so many players in the sector to exchange experiences and show off the latest innovations. This year was particularly significant as Small Cell Forum is celebrating its tenth anniversary.
This provoked some trips down memory lane, but mainly a recognition of how far the market, and the platform, have evolved in the past decade. It was important to mark the achievements so far, especially at the annual SCF awards. As always, this was a great occasion, with the awards more hotly contested than ever. The shortlisted and winning submissions were notable for their diversity, from a network to blanket a terminal of Los Angeles Airport with connectivity, to another to connect users in the Australian Outback.
Perhaps the clearest sign of the shifting forces in the market was the winner of the prestigious Judges’ Choice award, which went to Cisco for its work in taking the Forum’s nFAPI specification for virtualized small cells into open source. Neither virtualization nor open source was a term associated with small cells – or cellular networks – a decade ago.
All this reflects that densification programs and enterprise deployments are gathering pace, taking small cells to new levels of scale, and new corners of the globe. The latest instalment in the Forum’s Release program, Release 9, is called ‘Commercializing Hyperdense HetNets’, and provides a blueprint for dense deployments.
One of its themes was also an important and much-debated topic at SCWS – shared spectrum, and especially the US’s CBRS scheme in 3.5 GHz, which should remove some of the cost and deployability barriers to small cell roll-out, especially when combined with neutral host models. Several small cell vendors, such as SpiderCloud Wireless and ip.access, are now offering platforms for shared 3.5 GHz spectrum, which a new report from Mobile Experts identifies as a key enabler of low cost alternatives to DAS in the enterprise.
Enterprise and IoT deployments were at the heart of the conference this year, with a record number of organizations from many industries attending and speaking. There were a series of invitation-only enterprise round tables which brought together representatives from sectors such as real estate and hospitality, as well as municipalities and venue operators. They were able to share views on the many and varied ways that small cells can improve connectivity and business.
And the event also featured a Stadium IoT and Connectivity Day, reflecting the interest in this particularly challenging – but potentially highly profitable – use case.
And of course, there was some crystal ball gazing, looking ahead to what the next 10 years might bring. Some of the predictions are included in the anniversary edition of the Forum’s Market Status Report, and in its Vision for 2027. http://scf.io/en/documents/050_Market_status_report_June_2017_Special_edition.php