Mobile telcos set out demands for 5G small cell standards

11 July 2019 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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The Small Cell Forum (SCF), which represents mobile operators, has set out the standards it needs to stop vendors locking them in as 5G infrastructure expands.

The SCF says it wants to stimulate a competitive ecosystem for vendors of 5G small cell hardware, software and systems.

“The economic success of 5G is reliant on interoperable multivendor networks, which require open interfaces at both silicon and network level,” said SCF chair David Orloff.

The SCF, which represents operators such as AT&T and Telefónica as well as vendors such as Aruba and ZTE, has set out its requirements in a specification for physical application programming interfaces (APIs). This defines what SCF hopes will be “an open and interoperable interface” between the physical layer and the media access control (MAC) layer.

The emerging 5G industry sees a clear need for small cells, to be positioned in shopping malls, offices and at street corners, in order to provide dense coverage with the sort of low latency that 5G applications such as the internet of things (IoT) will need.

This latest specification has been developed through a successful collaboration of companies from across the small cell ecosystem, including Intel, Qualcomm, Airspan and Picocom.

The SCF hopes that open specifications such “will enable operators to mix and match protocol stacks, basebands and radios from different vendors”, enabling them to benefit from virtualised radio access networks (vRANs), using equipment from different suppliers.

“These uniform specifications for equipment and interfaces will enable limitless flexibility in how cells are deployed and which form factors and suppliers are included,” said Orloff. Such specifications “are key to accelerating the progress towards fully deployable, commercially viable dense 5G networks”.