Small Cell Forum plan aims to accelerate 5G densification

small cell 5G densification
Image credit: kriang phromphim /

Small Cell Forum (SCF) has outlined its work program for 2018-19 in a wide-ranging brief covers every aspect of densification, including policy improvements for siting and spectrum, 5G-enabling technologies and the next iteration of its enterprise action plan.

Over the past 12 months the SCF has held ‘Densification Summits’ in India, China and the United States, bringing together operators, vendors and other stakeholders to map clear and cost-effective migratory paths to dense, highly software-driven and automated 5G networks – with a focus on improving coverage and targeted capacity at every stage along the way. In adopting this approach, the SCF has been able to gather a broad range of requirements from the industry and enterprise as to what future networks should enable; providing detailed targets to work towards.

One of the items on the new work agenda, the edge computing landscape, is an example of an area where a common framework will be essential to avoid fragmentation, but where every operator will deploy differently, to support different use cases.

Other important technical topics, which were identified as key operator requirements or gaps, include a full roadmap for orchestration and SON. Unsurprisingly, on the eve of commercial 5G, many of the issues which operators highlighted relate to that new standard – for instance, how it will interwork with Wi-Fi, and what a 5G small cell for massive IoT applications should look like. And some of the forum’s most important 4G technologies will be revisited to plot a 5G migration, including the nFAPI interface for virtualized small cell networks.

“Many industries are looking to use mobile technology to transform their processes and services, so the forum has been as active in gathering enterprise requirements as those of operators. As with operators, each organization’s business goals may be different, but they will only be able to access interoperable, affordable and easily deployable technology if there are common platforms,” said David Orloff, chair of SCF. “Our approach brings together enterprises, operators, vendors and other stakeholders, working collectively to tackle a wide variety of challenges and business models.”

One foundation of the new work program is the Enterprise Requirements Action Plan (SCF215), which identifies requirements which are common to all sectors, and can be addressed by a unified small cell platform, while also drilling down on the specific variations within individual markets – hospitality, healthcare and commercial property have been particular areas of focus so far.

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