SCWS Singapore: Asia sets the pace in smart cities and dense HetNets
The latest stop on the Small Cell Forum’s recent world tour was in Singapore, for the Small Cell World Summit Asia event. As expected in such a hotbed of advanced mobile deployment, the show was buzzing, with operators from all over the region sharing their experiences and challenges. CEO Sue Monahan opened the conference, sharing this presentation with updates on the state of the market.
The dominant themes that emerged from the many presentations at the event chimed in very well with the Forum’s work program for 2016. Some of the key messages – densification really is happening, not just in the broadband powerhouses of Japan and South Korea but in other parts of Asia such as urban India; smart cities are a significant driver of small cells, with Singapore itself a trendsetter; and there is intense interest in small cell virtualization and Small Cell Forum’s work in this area.
Many deployments on transport systems or business premises will link to broad smart city projects and Singapore is a showcase in this area – indeed, as a city state, it can even label its initiative ‘smart nation’.
The presentations from participants in the Singapore program emphasized several important issues for the small cell industry – that dense networks, especially in-building, are the critical framework for a connected city; but that success depends on many stakeholders working together. The potential use cases are too varied, and the issues of infrastructure and regulation too complex, for just one organization to manage the project.
In Singapore, the flexible approach of the regulator, the IDA, has been a significant factor in the success of the first phases, as have the cooperation of many interested parties in vertical sectors and government. For instance, property management firms have been working with mobile operators and social service providers to create ‘smart living spaces’ for elderly residents.
This kind of progress indicates that many operators in Asia have moved well beyond the stage of deploying small cells to fill gaps in coverage or capacity. They are now actively planning dense HetNets which will support a wide range of business cases, and which may include a wide variety of technologies and spectrum. This is driving real scale into the market – two-thirds of enterprises are either deploying small cells or planning to do so in the next two years, according to a recent study by Nemertes; and the installed base of non-residential small cells in Asia-Pacific will be close to 14 million by 2020, according to Rethink Technology Research.
A survey of mobile operators by Rethink identified the main drivers for this impressive regional progress. Among the many drivers to deploy small cells, there are four which are far more significant among Asian carriers, at this stage, than those elsewhere. These are new revenue-generating services, especially those enabled by location or presence awareness; small cells as a first step towards the virtualized RAN; and the expansion of smart city and Internet of Things applications.
This drive towards context-aware, ubiquitous networks is leading the Asian carriers to trial a wide variety to approaches to densification. By the end of the decade, at least 80% of them expect to have deployed a combination of licensed and unlicensed spectrum in a HetNet; dedicate links to support IoT connections optimally; and advanced SON techniques to improve the manageability of dense networks with automation. These are the kind of technologies which will help enhance the small cell platform and address the three primary concerns Asian operators are expressing – automation, integration with multiple networks, and monetization.
These challenges and potential solutions are also at the heart of the Forum’s roadmap, and there will be a rising level of engagement at regional and local level to ensure 2016’s work addresses the specific requirements, diverse as they are, of operators in this part of the world.
You can access all the presentation from Singapore here »