Small Cells Forum tackles virtualisation in latest guidance document

Release 5.1 covers the first part of the Forum’s work to standardise small cell virtualisation and marks an expansion of its role towards enabling all facets of integrating small cells into HetNet deployments

Small Cells Forum tackles virtualisation in latest guidance document

The Small Cells Forum launched Release 5.1, the first phase of its work on small cell virtualisation, at the Small Cells World Summit 2015 in London today (9 June 2015). The Release identifies a clear opportunity to support an accelerated industry transition to virtualised small cells.

The Forum, therefore, has looked at areas for virtualisation and for the present has come up with a virtualised Functional Application Platform Interface (nFAPI) based on a MAC/PHY split. It is also working on a PDCP

The Forum believes the MAC/PHY approach is well aligned with both the packet switched backhaul service conventionally used to support small cell deployment, and the current small cell multi-vendor ecosystem that has already widely deployed a MAC/PHY platform decomposition based on the Forum’s FAPI.

Research from Maravedis-Rethink indicates that the majority of operators deploying small cells will also look to deploy virtualisation in parts of their RAN, and that over 90% of those operators deploying cloud-RAN will also be using urban small cells, there is an urgent need to fully assess the virtualisation split options and understand how virtualised small cells will align with centralised and virtualised macro RAN.

Release 5.1 covers the technical and commercial analysis of virtualisation options, along with their respective costs and benefits. Alan Law, Chair, Small Cells Forum, said: ‘We’ve found clear benefits and drivers towards centralisation and virtualisation of the small cell network.

‘These facilitate the scalability of small cells and enable functions to be moved around depending on the loading conditions or availability of compute and transport resources. It’s a really exciting opportunity for the industry and one we will continue to develop as part of our future work.’

At a briefing ahead of the launch, Law explained that Release 5.1 covers 12 main areas, six of which relate to virtualisation, while topics such as LTE-LAA and backhaul feature among the others.

Looking ahead, Law said the Forum will be undertaking more work on SON and HetNets (with a major release expected in 2016 on the latter), multi-operator, 5G, M2M and IoT, security and green small cells.

Sue Monahan, CEO, Small Cells Forum, said that the virtualisation Release marked a new direction and roadmap for the Forum, with the focus shifting to enabling all facets of integrating small cells into HetNet deployments.

Law said: ‘Our mission is to drive the wide-scale adoption of small cells and accelerate the delivery of integrated HetNets. We want to help carries bring all their assets together and make the most of them.’

Monahan said: ‘ Small Cell Forum has always had a strong focus on interoperability and some of our most influential work to data has been around integrating small cells with not just the macro network, but with service integration, Wi-fi technologies and enterprise networks.

‘What we’re seeing now is small cell deployments really ramping up and being used as part of true HetNets, with operators taking advantage of a range of different technologies to deliver the best subscriber experience.

‘Our new roadmap will help operators accelerate the delivery of integrated HetNet deployment, while also leverage new trends from virtualisation through to 5G, M2M and LAA.’

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