Small cells drive network rollout in numerous indoor and outdoor environments, and will in the future support not only public networks but dedicated private networks, the IoT and more. These networks will often be managed by new players. Many will use neutral hosting to ensure multi-operator connectivity. We are working to help our industry avoid the risks and gain the rewards of these new approaches.
In particular, these networks require commonality of design and features in order to be cost-effective. Driving open interfaces – from chip to network to application layers – has always been at the heart of our work. Our landmark family of common interfaces – the 5G FAPI specifications – is supporting this aim.
Our 5G nFAPI specifications build on this. They enable interoperability to the next generation of networks. And our latest work around 5G NR FR1 Reference Designs aims to deliver greater flexibility and scalability of small cells in the 5G era.
The FAPI specification encodes split6 as an asset of SCF that is made available as an open interface to stakeholders such as telecoms infrastructure operators and product developers. In addition, SCF has invested in the development of a supporting tool (the DARTs online tool) that assesses the implications of disaggregation; not only for split6 but for other splits as well. This capability paves the way for the continued evaluation of the splits, as new features are standardized in 3GPP and SCF prepares as a 3GPP market partner for the potential re-engineering of the splits in preparation of early 6G propositions.
This paper aims to provide a consensus view and concise definition of the types of 5G small cells being rolled out now and in the near future. It also aims to define the key characteristics of the different types of commercially viable 5G small cell RAN products that will be available over the next five years. It takes account of 3GPP and O-RAN Alliance 5G disaggregated open RAN specifications – work that covers macrocells but also includes microcells and picocells.Learn more
This paper sets out the case for a common, modular architecture for 5G NR FR1 small cell distributed radio units. It provides a comprehensive overview of the components and interfaces that comprise a 5G NR FR1 small cell distributed radio unit within the context of a reference design. SCF argues that underpinning such a design should be the capacity to deliver flexibility and scalability and the ability to swap out regionally specific RF front-end modules.Learn more
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In the 5G era, small cells will be deployed in a far wider range of scenarios, and the form factors and architectures will be much more varied than in the past. The introduction of virtualized, disaggregated networks means that some small cells will consist of two or three elements, while others will still be all-in-one. It is clear, then, that old definitions are now inadequate, and we have been conscious of the risks of the industry fragmenting between hundreds of different designs that had insufficient common features to achieve any scale.
Below are some of our up-coming work items
Historically, mobile network operators selected RAN equipment and neutral host service providers employed RAN-agnostic DAS, or separate operator-selected small cells. New business models enabled by sharing initiatives – like CBRS in the US and JOTS in Europe – put RAN purchase within the control of neutral hosts, who have different requirements to MNOs.
This initiative looks at what neutral host providers expect from mobile infrastructure and how small cells need to evolve to meet those needs.