As we launch the Small Cell Forum Awards, Caroline Gabriel shares her excitement at being Chair of judges once more.
It’s that time of year again – time to show off your brightest inventions and most successful deployments of the year, and submit them for the Small Cell Forum annual awards. As the chair of this year’s panel of judges, I am particularly excited to see which innovations and success stories will make our hotly contested shortlists this time.
Last year, the awards were the most successful ever, with a huge variety of entries at an extremely high standard. Indeed, the showcasing of so many commercial applications and roll-outs directly inspired the creation of the Forum’s first Champions’ Day, held in Rome in September, which initiated the Forum’s new work programme.
In other words, the awards are not just about a glittering ceremony and trophies, but about recognising the progress the whole industry has made, and building on that in many activities that don’t involve champagne and dinner suits.
And in 2016, as the small cell industry is poised for its biggest leap forward to date, I believe we can make even more impact than before, and showcase an even wider range of products and services.
This makes it doubly important to enter the awards – so the most innovative and successful technologies and services can be recognised, but also so that you can influence the broader market and the Forum’s work priorities.
This year, given the progress the small cell sector has made in 2015, my job, and that of the whole panel of illustrious analyst judges, will be even harder. Some of the awards categories have been modified to reflect changes in an industry which is maturing rapidly, and poised for even greater growth next year, as highlighted in the Small Cell Forum’s white paper ‘Crossing the Chasm’.
Last year four new categories were introduced, covering excellence in commercial deployment, to reflect that small cells were becoming a mainstream element of real world operator strategies, which needed to be rewarded as much as technological breakthroughs.
These were very popular and high profile, so this year, while stalwart technology categories in access and backhaul remain, two exciting new awards have also been added.
One is entitled ‘HetNet management software and services’ and is the first award to be focused on the challenges of deploying and managing a full heterogeneous network based on small cells. Once again, this shows the awards process mirroring changes in the deployment landscape – HetNets are becoming real, and many management platforms such as SON will be enabling them, as well as conventional small cell roll-outs. So the time is right to extend the category to reflect that
The other new award is rather different. As a maturing industry becomes increasingly focused on commercial success, it is important not to forget that cutting edge technology developments are still essential to drive the business cases and economics of the future. In 2016, then, there will be the first award specifically for innovation, to give the opportunity to reward a development that is not yet commercial but has the potential to move the industry forward significantly in a few years’ time.
The full list of awards categories is here. Do give them some thought over the coming weeks and submit your technologies, services and deployments. The Small Cell Forum Awards have established themselves as one of the most trusted and desirable industry prizes, and we expect 2016 to see an even bigger range of high quality entries, reflecting the growth and innovation in this industry. Don’t miss your chance to be part of it, and I look forward to seeing your entries, and perhaps to celebrating with you at the gala dinner in May.