SCF Publishes 5G nFAPI 1.0 Specification to Speed and Simplify Open RAN Small Cell Deployments

SCF Contributors Qualcomm Technologies, Radisys, Reliance Jio,  Picocom, Microchip and Airspan Define Specification to Help Operators Deploy Disaggregated 5G Small Cells

London, UK 22nd September 2020 – Small Cell Forum (SCF) today published the first release of the 5G nFAPI 1.0 specification, a highly flexible next-generation network interface which leverages the widely adopted FAPI MAC/PHY API used in the vast majority of the world’s millions of deployed System-on-a- Chip (SoC) based small cells. Following considerable interest in Open RAN and disaggregation from the mobile network operator community, 5G nFAPI Split option 6 is one of several functional split options to have been shortlisted as a candidate for further evaluation. Today’s release of the specification will enable early implementations for evaluation by mobile operators and other deployers. SCF also today announced a roadmap for ongoing future implementation and ecosystem support, full details are available for download.

Today’s announcement adds 5G network-FAPI (nFAPI) to the suite of established 3G, 4G and 5G API specifications already used in small cells the world over. nFAPI provides a transport wrapper around the established FAPI PHY API to create an open split option 6 interface between an S-RU and S-DU. nFAPI enshrines all of the principles of the open RAN ethos: S-DU functions can be virtualized and run on lightweight COTS servers or edge Cloud and can interoperate with S-RUs from any supplier. An open source reference implementation is available for FAPI and can extend to nFAPI.

“The flexibility and scalability of modular and virtualized radio access networks are primed to accelerate innovation in cellular infrastructure, help lower OPEX and CAPEX costs and enable a software upgradable network architecture,” said Puneet Sethi, Senior Director, Product Management, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. “Qualcomm Technologies is very pleased to support development and implementation of the 5G nFAPI 1.0 specification, with the goal of enabling a standards-based and interoperable marketplace that is more open, robust, innovative and competitive.”

“Operators are currently evaluating the various approaches to building 5G networks which enable them to deploy disaggregated RAN architectures based on standard specifications to increase competition and increase economies of scale,” said Ravi Sinha, Director, Product Development and Solutions, Reliance Jio. “As a leading operator we are proud to have been involved in helping define this specification within SCF and look forward to evaluation feedback from MNOs and other deployers.”

“This specification has brought together the combined knowledge and deployment experience of leading mobile operators, silicon vendors and telecoms software companies to enable an open interface for disaggregated small cell solutions,” said Ganesh Shenbagaraman, Vice President, Engineering, Radisys. “As a leading small cell software provider and a key contributor to this specification, we are eager to see the adoption of nFAPI open interface in 5G small cells deployment.”

“SCF has been central to developing specifications for Radio Access Networks that encourage competition and innovation among suppliers from across the ecosystem,” said Dr. Prabhakar Chitrapu, Chair, Small Cell Forum. “Building on this proven track record, today’s announcement brings this considerable body of experience to bear on 5G Open RAN and we look forward to further announcements in the near future as we continue to announce further feature implementation and standards development.”