Small Cell Forum plots a path to 5G with HetNet/SON architecture
Release 7 provides the essential tools to deploy and manage a multi-x network to meet today’s data challenges – and lay practical foundations for 5G
A working guide to deploying HetNets now, and a migration path to 5G – this is the double promise of Small Cell Forum’s Release 7, which is published today.
Release 7 focuses on HetNet and SON (self-optimizing networks), which mobile operators have identified as central capabilities of their next generation networks. Recent research indicates that over 80% of MNOs will deploy non-residential small cells and SON by 2020, as part of a HetNet program, and over 40% will start during 2016.
To ensure such predictions come true, Small Cell Forum believes operators need to be confident about two aspects of HetNet. They need a common workable blueprint which will accelerate roll-out and achieve scale – not another look in the mobile crystal ball, but a set of practical steps, based on input from operators and on real world use cases. In addition, they need to be sure that the choices they make now are future-proofed for migration to 2020 and beyond.
Those are the reasons to publish Release 7 at this critical juncture. “The mobile industry is awash with 5G predictions and roadmaps, but what operators need urgently is a clear and pragmatic process to enhance their current platforms, and prepare the groundwork for the next generation,” said Alan Law – SCF Chair
The Release provides a detailed technical and commercial blueprint for deploying a HetNet – which the Forum defines as a “multi-x environment – multi-technology, multi-domain, multi-spectrum, multi-operator and multi-vendor”. It provides tools and best practice to ease the path to this multi-x network, and to start implementing technologies which will also be part of 5G.
HetNets and 5G are inherently based around density and small cells and the Forum’s members have unrivalled experience in this area. Over 14m small cells have been deployed to date and roll-out is accelerating with enterprise and urban densification, to support rising data usage and new MNO revenue models.
Mobile Experts shows a 78% growth in non-residential shipments in the year to Q1 2016. That brings new technologies into the mix, such as virtualization, Mobile Edge Computing and neutral host platforms. All these are addressed in Release 7, and all are essential stepping stones towards 5G. Of particular note, we have released our first detailed definition of how the forum’s existing FAPI platform interface based on a MAC/PHY split can be networked over a common IP transport, which is critical to enable centralisation and virtualisation of small cell functions.
SON is essential to make it practical and economic to deploy huge numbers of cells simply, in current and future HetNets. “At over 14m shipments, the small cell is nothing short of a revolution in network densification, and simply would not have been possible without SON,” said David Orloff – SCF HetNet Operator Champion. “The simplicity of the user experience belies the sophistication of the underlying SON features which ensure the newly deployed cells integrate seamlessly into existing HetNets.”
SON has already enabled the self-install deployment model for residential and enterprise small cells. Now the Forum’s work will take it to the next level, not just enabling large-scale dense networks, but supporting end-to-end self-optimization including backhaul and core.
For SON, the forum has analysed the X2 interface, defined a SON API, and is collaborating with industry partners ETSI and the NGMN on a series of PlugFest interoperability test events.
Editor’s notes – key elements of Release 7:
Release 7, like its predecessors, details technical and commercial best practice and results in a unified set of guidelines, interfaces and specifications to give operators confidence that they are rolling out HetNets in an efficient, interoperable and future-proofed way.
It includes foundational elements of an interoperable HetNet, including the NFAPI interface, the SON API, and the Integrated HetNet Architecture Framework, in which SON plays an essential role in enabling large-scale deployment. On the commercial side, the Release includes a detailed analysis of the current state of the market together with an exclusive survey of mobile operators’ drivers to adopt HetNet and SON. A broad collection of deployment case studies, with a particular focus on SON, helps to disseminate best practice and real world experiences to ease the path for others.
Other important HetNet issues which are covered by Release 7 documents include:
- License-exempt spectrum – LTE-LAA and -LWA, Carrier WiFi, voice issues, and Trusted WLAN architecture recommendations.
- Multi-operator and neutral host – market drivers, technology enablers and regulatory issues.
- Interoperability issues – the SON API, the latest Plugfest details, and work on X2 for cellular/WiFi convergence.
- Easy deployment guide including the latest developments in backhaul.
- nFAPI – detailed definition of virtualised small cell MAC/PHY decomposition
Download all the documents for free here>>