The neutral host program is designed to capture requirements driving technologies and standards supporting hosted and private small cell networks

Small Cell Forum (SCF) on Tuesday announced the launch of a new initiative to capture technology requirements for ‘hosted’ networks. This reflects the need to ensure future mobile technology standards and solutions take into account the needs of a new and growing set of alternative deployers as well as those of mobile operators.

New deployers including neutral hosts, private network operators, tower companies and systems integrators are working together with mobile operators to extend the availability and affordability of mobile infrastructure to SMEs, industry and communities. Enabling enterprises and communities to lay on connectivity for their customers, workers and ‘things’ will both boost mobile economies and enhance experiences for MNOs’ subscribers.

The drivers behind this work are reflected in the findings of SCF’s latest market status report which predicts strong growth in both indoor and outdoor neutral hosting at a rate of 37-40% CAGR to 2026. By which time, more than 70% of indoor enterprise small cells will be deployed by neutral hosts and other new entrants.

The group’s task is to agree a common set of architecture requirements:

• Identifying the global set of hosting architectures supporting multi-operator, private networking and other alternative deployment models, both indoor and outdoor.
• Extracting common requirements and standard approaches for aspects including RAN interfaces, OSS management, virtualisation, spectrum, security, transport, etc.
• Clarify line items common to all deployment models and those which must remain flexible to customise the hosting offer for different MNOs on the one hand, and venues on the other.

This work will support the broader goals for the small cell forum’s community of neutral hosts and other deployers:

• Facilitate cooperation and understanding between MNOs, neutral hosts and enterprises to lower barriers to hosted shared and private networks.
• Evolve management, operations and analytics to better align with hosted network architectures and the requirements of enterprise users.
• Drive availability of multi-operator product sets to improve the costs of neutral host deployment.
• Develop reference deployment designs for specific sectors to speed and scale private cellular networks for industry and enterprise.
• Share global regulatory best practice, simple and repeatable deployment processes, and socio-economic benefit case narratives.

“Our latest market analysis shows that neutral hosts and other alternative service providers already deploy more than half enterprise and urban small cells, and this is set to rise steeply in the coming years,” said Julius Robson, Chief Strategy Officer at Small Cell Forum. “SCF is unique in bringing together a diverse mix of service providers, operators and vendors into one industry organization committed to aligning on technical requirements to drive future small cell standards and technologies. We invite companies from across the neutral host ecosystem to join us to support this work.”

SCF’s new program builds on recent work including SCF231 Options for indoor cellular, SCF235 Private cellular networks with small cells and SCF250 Neutral hosts on JOTS NHIB.

Leading SCF neutral hosts, towercos and alternative service providers include American Tower, BAI Communications, BT Wholesale, Cellnex Telecom, Colt Technologies, Crown Castle, Dense Air and ExteNet Systems.

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