Small Cell Forum today marks its tenth anniversary by completing Release 9, providing operators with a comprehensive blueprint for densification of today’s networks and laying foundations for future 5G systems.
The new documents include:
outlines of hyperdense network architectures;
the managed use of shared spectrum and CBRS;
an installation guide to achieving RF compliance developed with IEC and GSMA; and
the latest FAPI and nFAPI interface specifications – now supporting NB-IOT.
Since its foundation, SCF has changed the shape of mobile networks; and today three quarters of all cells are small cells and more than 18 million have been deployed across a range of use cases.
“The next few years will see densification on a massive scale of both existing 4G networks as well as next generation 5G systems. SCF is playing a central role in this shift, both from technology and cultural perspectives,” said David Orloff, Chair of Small Cell Forum. “Since day one the Forum has been highly successful in driving small cells into the mainstream and is set to continue to play a central role in densification, working to drive and co-ordinate the industry to revolutionise how networks are developed and deployed.”
SCF’s work extends from defining new technologies to overcoming a wide range of non-technical barriers preventing adoption such as regulation, market re-education, re-thinking operational processes, and the adoption of new business models. Release 9 applies these learnings to network densification already happening with 4G and which will form the bedrock of 5G networks. It describes the technological and cultural shifts needed to commercialize hyperdense HetNets, including:
the technologies for network densification,
market analysis and education,
lobbying for pro-connectivity regulation and policy, and
slicker operational processes and testing multi-vendor interoperability of SON in HetNets.
It also incorporates business model templates for alternative ownership and operations models for network infrastructure, with a worked example for the hospitality industry. Release 9 documents are available to download free from the SCF Release website scf.io.
SCF also today published a ‘Market status report: Special edition’, a report that details how, over the last decade, SCF has played a key role in the growth of small cells, breaking down many barriers to deployment to push small cells into the mainstream with tens of millions of deployments. The document also provides updated deployment numbers and projections.
Today, the small cell market is growing globally at an unprecedented rate, with IHS Markit estimating growth from $1.5bn in 2016 to $2.2bn by 2021. Against the backdrop of this continued growth, SCF’s role is more relevant than ever, and the organization is continuing its efforts to raise the profile and evangelize the value that small cells can offer to networks, operators and their customers – both privately and particularly in enterprise verticals – as demonstrated by SCF’s new Enterprise Advisory Council initiative. The Forum has established new commercial models for ownership and operations; establishing scalable, repeatable deployment processes, alleviating bureaucratic and practical obstacles such as site selection and approval.
The updated Release 9 documents include:
 Hyper dense network architectures: Clarifies requirements for massive densification of existing networks and compares candidate architectures: Distributed & centralised RAN, Split RAN, Cloud RAN and Software Defined RAN.
 Shared spectrum and CBRS: Describes how the new 3.5GHz band in the US will be managed with a Spectrum Access System to support use cases of augmenting mobile operators’ capacity, supporting neutral hosting and for private LTE networks.
 Our FAPI and nFAPI interface specification now implements NB-IOT features defined by 3GPP, allowing virtualized small cells to support the air interface optimised for Internet of Things devices.
 At-a-glance installation guide to achieving RF compliance: Working with IEC and GSMA, SCF proposes simple and harmonized installation rules for different power classes to simplify processes for both operators and planning authorities.