Small Cell Forum announces Release 5.1 with support for small cell virtualization

The Small Cell Forum industry group has released version 5.1 of its small cell standard, which focuses on the technical and commercial analysis of virtualization options, along with their respective costs and benefits.

As the telecoms industry on the whole increasingly moves towards virtualization it is incumbent on the small cell industry to ensure it keeps pace. Heterogeneous networks (HetNets), that combine macro and small cells to solve coverage and capacity problems are expected to become increasingly common, so the various types of technology need to integrate fully.

“Our operator group met in June 2014 to discuss the impact of virtualization on small cells and the opportunities it could present. What we’re announcing today is the first part of our work in this area,” said Alan Law, Chair of Small Cell Forum.

“We’ve found clear benefits and drivers towards centralization and virtualization of the small cell network. These facilitate the scalability of small cells and enable functions to be moved around depending on 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.”

In further acknowledgement of the growing importance of HetNets the Forum has even changed its mission statement: “Our mission is to drive the wide-scale adoption of small cells and accelerate the delivery of integrated HetNets.”

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

“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 deployments, while also leveraging new trends from virtualization through to 5G, M2M and LAA.”

In related news ACG Research says the global small cell market grew 17.5% year-on-year to $134.1 million in Q1, driven by demand for better indoor coverage. “This quarter has yet again seen many indoor deployments, which will continue to grow but are expected to shift to enterprise and public access venues in the coming years. This shift will generate new business opportunities and sources of revenue for MNOs,” said Elias Aravantinos of ACG.

“The ongoing hype around small cells is expected to end by 2016. High data demanding LTE networks and lack of spectrum in the macro layer will force the investment and deployment of a large volume of small cells to boost backhaul, access applications and new services. In the near future the demand of Gbyte levels at the small cell layer toward 5G adoption is expected to boost deployments and significantly affect operators’ spending. Finally, the market is expected to grow at least fivefold by 2019.”


SSF release 5.1


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