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Small Cell Forum Kicks off Network Virtualisation Work Stream

The Small Cell Forum, the independent industry and operator association that supports small cell deployment worldwide, today announced its intention to address virtualisation as part of its on-going Release Program.

Network Function Virtualisation “NFV” is an industry initiative that moves functions from specialised hardware to standard data centre infrastructure. Virtualisation in the radio access network is often referred to as Cloud-RAN and current approaches require ‘ideal’ fronthaul networks that may limit their broader applicability to today’s diverse range of small cell deployments. This new initiative will evaluate virtualisation options to understand the optimal approach to apply to the small cell layer.

“Operators need to understand how small cells fit into the Cloud-RAN story,” said Sue Monahan, CEO of the Small Cell Forum. “We believe there will be better ROI if operators can plan virtualisation across the entire HetNet, including small cells, rather than as a separate exercise. This work stream will consider the impact of such an approach on everything from network architecture to the business case. We are now inviting Forum members and the wider industry to get behind this initiative and help shape the future of mobile networks through our Release work.”

“Cloud-RAN and small cells have often been presented as alternatives,” said Gordon Mansfield, Chair of Small Cell Forum. “We believe that virtualisation techniques can be re-applied to small cell architectures. This work will help ensure that in dense HetNets, small cells are fully interworking with other platforms to create the broadest pool of capacity and most efficient use of shared resources.”

A SlideShare detailing the objectives of the virtualisation work stream is available to view here. This follows a workshop discussion at Small Cell World Summit in London where Forum members, delegates and industry analysts were invited to discuss the potential of virtualisation, alongside plans for Release Five that will tackle deployment of small cells in rural and remote scenarios including disaster recovery, military installations as well as verticals such as oil and gas, maritime, aviation and automotive.

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About the Small Cell Forum (SCF):

The Small Cell Forum (www.smallcellforum.org) supports the wide-scale adoption of small cells. Small cells are low-power wireless access points that operate in licensed spectrum, are operator-managed and feature edge-based intelligence. They provide improved cellular coverage, capacity and applications for homes and enterprises as well as metropolitan and rural public spaces. They include technologies variously described as femtocells, picocells, microcells and metrocells. The Forum has in excess of 150 members including 68 operators representing more than 3 billion mobile subscribers – 46 per cent of the global total – as well as telecoms hardware and software vendors, content providers and innovative start-ups.

About the Release Program

Launched in February 2013 the Release program provides a comprehensive set of technical and business documents to help deploy small cells in the home, enterprise, rural and urban areas. Each release includes detailed documents on key areas such as market drivers, business case, and technology information including standards, operator lessons, and a regulatory overview.

The Release Program is driven by the knowledge that more than 98% of operators think small cells are essential to their future. Whilst existing deployments have centred on almost 50 pioneering large operators in developed markets, the Release Program aims to help every type of operator from across the globe to roll out small cells.

In 2015, the Forum will publish Release Five, themed around small cells for Rural & Remote deployments. View the roadmap here http://scf.io/doc/100

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