Small Cell Forum issues guidance on the 5G HetNet future

Latest documents include blueprint of architectural framework for fully integrated multi-vendor, multi-technology HetNets and defines characteristics, components, and technology requirements

Small Cell Forum issues guidance on the 5G HetNet future

The Small Cell Forum published its Release 7 tranche of documents relating to HetNets and the road to the 5G future this week (10 May 2016) at the Small Cells World Summit (SCWS) 2016 in London.

The documents form the foundations of a full market-defining Release, which will be unveiled in June, addressing the technology, deployment and regulatory issues around HetNets and SON (self-optimising networks).

With small cells at the heart of operators’ move towards multi-technology, multi-domain, multivendor networks, the Forum believes it is ideally placed to provide a blueprint for deployment now, and a roadmap to the 5G future.

Combined, Release 7 will consist of over 20 documents focused on real world issues for operators and vendors deploying HetNets and planning the migration to 5G. For the first time, the Forum is detailing and defining all the components of the HetNet, which it defines as a “multi-x environment – multi-technology, multi-domain, multi-spectrum, multi-operator and multi-vendor”.

At the heart of today’s HetNet Foundations release is the ‘Integrated HetNet Architecture Framework: paving the path for 5G networks’. This describes the whole network architecture and the supporting management framework and systems that will be required for HetNets, especially as these become increasingly virtualised.

Other documents include detailed analysis of SON use cases in enterprise and urban environments; an operator survey focused on the key market drivers for deploying HetNets; the Forum’s 5G roadmap; and a collection of early deployment stories.

“The HetNet Foundations release provides a comprehensive, independent guide to building a fully integrated HetNet which is ready for virtualisation and, in future, 5G,” said Forum chair Alan Law, speaking ahead of the publication at the annual Small Cell World Summit in London.

“It is the first time that all the elements and requirements for full integration and automation have been clearly mapped and defined within an architectural framework. It very clearly identifies the work program that will need to be completed in the coming months and that Forum members will lead,” he added.

Law also heralded the work that Forum members had already undertaken to get to this stage. “The small cell ecosystem has always supported the ‘multi-x’ characteristics that will be required in future 5G HetNets,” he said. “That places our operator and vendor working groups in an ideal position to define, detail, and explain the characteristics, components and management requirements of the 5G HetNet in 2020.”

“We will now continue to develop and deliver on the elements identified in the Foundations documents within our Release programme throughout the year. Release Seven will represent another industry-leading advance on the route to 5G.”

He concluded: “Already, operator groups in the Middle East, North Africa, and Latin America have asked to work with the Forum as we take this initiative forward throughout 2016 and beyond.”

At the same time, Small Cell Forum released its latest market figures showing that the number of small cells deployed had now passed 14 million. Growth in non-residential small cells continues to accelerate – with 78% growth in Q1 of 2016.

The report, by analyst house Mobile Experts, also shows that small cell revenues are now on a steep upward curve with revenues in 2016 set to more than double from 2015’s record breaking $1bn.

“The Small Cell market is no longer waiting for lift-off,” said Law, “it is growing exponentially and will dominate network infrastructure by 2020. Our Foundations analysis shows we have the plans and programmes in place to deliver the network of the future.”

The Foundations documents will be available free from May 10 from Small Cell Forum download site:

The background to HetNet Foundations – how it came about
HetNet Foundations is the latest result of Small Cell Forum’s “Champions””work programme, announced just last September at its plenary meeting in Rome. The initiative identified six key areas of focus for the Forum and elected operator and vendor Champions to lead each work item.

HetNet Foundations – 3
HetNet & SON, Network Virtualization and 5G were three of the key areas identified and all three of these teams collaborated in the production of the Foundations analysis. Operator champions leading this work included AT&T, China Mobile, and Reliance Jio; while the vendor community was represented by AirHop Communications, Cisco, Ericsson, Huawei, and ip.access.

As part of the Foundations release, Small Cell Forum published a summary of operator research commissioned from Rethink Research on the market drivers and operator priorities for HetNet.

Among the headline figures from the research are that more than two-thirds of the 70+ Tier One and Tier Two operators surveyed in 2016 place the HetNet as very important or critical to their commercial success between now and 2020 – a figure that rises to almost three-quarters when the requirement for new revenue models is included.

“Taken together,” said Law, “these documents show why operators need HetNets, what challenges need to be addressed to build them in a virtualised environment, the network management and automation advances required, and defines the path to overcome the integration challenges of a ‘multi-x’ network environment. This is more than just a business and technical blueprint – it represents the Foundation for future mobile networks,” he said.

The Foundations Documents:
Paving the path to 5G – what’s included?
• A full description of the constituent parts of evolving HetNet infrastructure model
• The integrated HetNet Architecture Framework
• Alignment with TMF Forum initiatives
• Alignment with ETSI Mobile Edge Compute Architecture
• Optimisation and Distributed Analytics
• Operational aspects including
• Multi-vendor
• Multi-RAN
• Backhaul
• WiFi
• Macro network
• Integrated SON
• Integrated resource orchestration
• Virtualization
• Scaling deployment
• Service and policy co-ordination

HetNet Foundations – 4
Operator market drivers research – what’s covered?
• The evolving nature of the HetNet
• Overall business drivers
• Technology elements needed to deliver HetNet business goals
• The essential role of the SON
• Key use cases supported by new HetNets
• Residential
• Enterprise
• Urban and rural
• Wholesale and MVNO
• Operator challenges
• Future-proofing.

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