Strongest ever awards shortlist reflects pace of innovation in small cells

So the shortlists for the Small Cell Forum’s eighth annual awards have been announced and the clock is ticking for the winners to be revealed on May 11 in London.

The judges’ task was tougher than ever this year, with a large number of entries covering every aspect of the small cell ecosystem. The standard of all the submissions was very high, so the shortlists for the 10 categories really do represent the cream of the industry in terms of innovation, commercial success and deployment excellence.

The diversity of the shortlisted entries reflects the way that the small cell platform is broadening to support the evolving HetNet, attracting a multitude of new players into the space. So first-time entrants like Swisscom and satellite company Gilat are recognized alongside veterans of the sector – some serial innovators like IP.access and Softbank were winners in the very first awards in 2009 (when it was the Femto Forum), and are shortlisted again in 2016.

The combination of continuity and new ideas is an important one to the Forum, which faces the challenge of driving adoption of new architectures while preserving operators’ investments in existing platforms. That balance is reflected in some of the themes which emerged from the shortlisting process.

One the one hand, this was the first year when there was a significant emphasis on Mobile Edge Computing, the emerging approach to distributing cloud resources through the network – which aligns naturally with small cells. Other relatively new themes, which have a strong showing in this year’s shortlist, are virtualization and HetNet management (the latter is the focus of a brand new category for 2016, so important is it to operators’ plans).

On the other hand, many entries reflect continuing innovation in areas which have underpinned small cells right from the original femto days, such as wireless backhaul and self-organization.

And one of the most important awards recognizes social and economic impact, reminding us that dense mobile networks can be a force for change. This year’s entries in this category were the strongest ever, enabling communications among the most remote and disadvantaged peoples in the world.

The shortlists are a strong reflection of the pace of innovation and quality of deployment in the small cell market. Every one of these submissions is a winner, but of course, just one in each category will be selected to receive an award on May 11. Join us at the gala dinner, during the Small Cells World Summit in London’s O2 Intercontinental, to find out who triumphs.