New work program focuses on small cells in the context of enterprise, 5G

The Small Cell Forum is sharpening its focus on the large-scale deployment of small cells within the enterprise, laying out a new work program that it says “reflects the growing urgency to deploy small cell networks around the world to best support densification today and in preparation for future 5G networks.”

The work program includes edge computing — which SCF said is “an excellent 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.” The work program lays out the areas of focus for SCF through 2019. SCF recently held its plenary meeting of working groups in Amsterdam and noted that the past year and a half have been focused on gathering information from operators and enterprises on their needs related to small cells; the next phase of work, through 2019, turns to SCF supporting the fulfillment of those requirements through a three-pronged strategy: enterprise engagement and supporting pro-densification policy and global technology alignment.

SCF said that the new work program comes out of three Densification Summits that the forum has held around the world over the past year, to gather requirements and detailed targets for its work based on the needs of operators and businesses to “map clear and cost-effective migratory paths to dense, highly software-driven and automated 5G networks – with focus on improving coverage and targeted capacity at every stage along the way,” according to SCF. SCF has put together an Enterprise Requirements Action Plan based on information from its Enterprise Advisory Council that “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.”

According to the report on enterprise connectivity requirements published earlier this year, SCF concluded that there is “rising demand for high-quality cellular connectivity in enterprise environments, whether public-facing (such as retail outlets or citizen services) or private networks (such as offices, factories, or safety networks). … Small cell cellular connectivity has clear potential in all industry sectors.”

However, SCF went on to say, “many enterprise sectors need certain requirements to be addressed before they feel confident enough to deploy small cells at scale.” It aims to address those requirements in five areas: business objectives for improved connectivity; trigger points for small cell deployment compared to other solutions; simplified procurement, deployment and maintenance processes; making a building small cell-ready; and ownership and operations models.

In addition to continuing its engagement with enterprises to address their needs, SCF noted a number of global technology-related initiatives that relate to densification and the use of small cells: edge computing is one, but others include shared spectrum; open-source software; orchestration; self-organizing networks and orchestrations; and the industrial internet of things for enterprises.

“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 Small Cell Forum, in a statement. “Our approach brings together enterprises, operators, vendors and other stakeholders, working collectively to tackle a wide variety of challenges and business models.”

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