Small cells

Small Cell Forum Sets Out 5G Stall

The Small Cell Forum has laid out the details of the architectural framework for so-called "HetNet" deployments in a 5G future while flagging recent impressive rates of growth in the small cells industry.

The association was set up to guide standardization efforts around small cell deployments and to popularize the technology, which -- as the name implies -- is designed to serve hotspots requiring connectivity over a small area.

Small cell rollout has been fueled by capacity demands in specific locations as well as the emergence of new applications in areas such as the Internet of Things (IoT). While most growth so far has come from the enterprise sector, about 85% of all cells in operator networks will be small cells by 2020, according to Alan Law, the current chair of the Small Cell Forum Ltd. and a distinguished engineer at Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD).

The "Release 7" blueprint being published today considers various emerging technologies and trends, including virtualization, self-optimizing networks (SONs) and the concept of the "HetNet" -- a heterogeneous network that can support a variety of technologies and deployment scenarios.

In Release 7 documentation, the Forum is defining a HetNet as a "multi-x environment -- multi-technology, multi-domain, multi-spectrum, multi-operator and multi-vendor." All of that makes interoperability a key focus of the Forum's efforts.

Of critical importance, however, is the expected arrival of 5G technology in the next few years: Much of the current 5G focus is on very high-frequency spectrum bands that fall into the "millimeter wave" category and are able to support bandwidth-hungry services but over very short distances.

"The barriers we've been addressing are more relevant as we transition to 5G," said Mark Grayson, a distinguished consulting engineer with Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) who also sits on the executive board of the Small Cell Forum, during a press briefing in London on the new release and research.

Previously, the Forum has focused on addressing the challenges of integrating small cells into the macro network, but with Release 7 it has also turned its attention to concerns around the underlying transport network, the use of "license-exempt" spectrum and the virtualization of network functions.

"This is the next step in evolution -- not just looking at small cells and macros but the need to consider the transport network and look at WiFi and license exempt as a whole, because all operators will need to embrace that in one way or another," said Grayson.

That virtualization is on the Forum's agenda is also notable: A number of the world's biggest operators are now accelerating their investments in so-called New IP technologies, like SDN and NFV, as they prepare for the introduction of 5G after 2020, when the next-generation mobile standard is expected to appear.

Major operators including Telenor Group (Nasdaq: TELN) and Telia Company (formerly TeliaSonera) have indicated that NFV will allow them to take advantage of network slicing, whereby 5G resources are dynamically allocated to customer groups with very specific service requirements. (See NFV Key to 5G Business Case, Says TeliaSonera, Net Neutrality Rules Threaten 5G, NFV – Telenor and 5G: Hurdles on the Track.)

"The HetNet … release provides a comprehensive, independent guide to building a fully integrated HetNet which is ready for virtualization and, in future, 5G," said Law in a published statement about Release 7.

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The Forum has also unveiled new figures -- commissioned from analyst firm Mobile Experts -- indicating that more than 14 million small cells have now been deployed.

According to Mobile Experts' research, the number of non-residential small cells grew by 78% in the first quarter of 2016, while small cell revenues are forecast to more than double this year from $1 billion in 2015.

In a survey of more than 70 operators carried out by Rethink Research, more than two thirds of respondents said the HetNet would be very important or critical to their commercial success between now and 2020. The Small Cell Forum said that figure rose to nearly three quarters when operators were asked to factor in their requirements for new revenue models.

US operators including Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) and Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) have been especially vocal about the need for what they call "network densification" incorporating small cells and related technologies. Indeed, only this week, Sprint CEO Marcello Claure shed more light on the operator's plans to use small cells, repeaters and "light pole options" as it prepares for 5G. (See Sprint CEO: Our Spectrum Is for 5G.)

Vodafone's Law, however, says there is huge interest in densification in other parts of the world, including the vast Indian market, where operators are struggling to cope with capacity constraints on their macro networks.

"Mumbai has four times the population density of Shanghai and yet access to spectrum is 20% of that in China, so you have a huge densification problem," he said during the Forum's press briefing. "We are seeing tremendous interest across small cells in India and that is coming down to the unique challenges operators face."

— Iain Morris, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, News Editor, Light Reading

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TV Monitor 5/12/2016 | 2:01:01 AM
Nokia's description of world's first Real 5G network in Korea Nokia has made a description of the World's First Real 5G network to be demonstrated at Pyeongchang. Strangely enough, the article was published in Japan, not in Korea or in English.


1. Nokia confirms the Pyeongchang 5G will be over 28 Ghz.

2. Nokia is however not confirming that its own Pyeongchang demo will be at 28 Ghz.

3. Nokia did demonstrate a 15 Ghz system in Korea in 2015, but 15 Ghz will not be used in Korea.

4. Nokia instead makes a detailed description of its prior LTE-M demonstratons in Korea with KT. According to Nokia, its LTE-M implementation does not require a bandwidth of its own, but can be piggybacked on an 20 Mhz wide standard LTE band.

So based on Nokia's description, Samsung will demo 28 Ghz 5G, while Nokia will demo its LTE-M at Pyeongchang 2018.
TV Monitor 5/11/2016 | 1:17:35 PM
Re: Dense Dan Jones

Samsung and Nokia were selected to provide equipment for the first 5G network set to go live by summer of next year for testing. Nothing for Ericsson.

While Samsung's scope of supply is well known(28 Ghz base station + 28 Ghz Galaxy phones), Nokia's scope of supply is less clear. Will find out soon. Maybe Nokia's supplying its 60~70 Ghz short range pico-cells while Samsung's 28 Ghz macrocells cover a 1.4 mile radius plus moving vehicles?

Or is it going to be Sub 6 Ghz IoT-optimized RAN being pushed by Nokia?


South Korean network operator KT has formed an alliance with global network equipment firms including Samsung Electronics and Nokia to jointly roll out technology standards and services of the next-generation network 5G for the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

The network operator said Wednesday that the company and its partners have launched the strategic alliance, dubbed KT 5G Development Forum, though which participants will develop mobile devices and network systems running on the 5G networks, and test compatibility between the devices and systems until February 2018.
TV Monitor 5/11/2016 | 1:08:59 PM
Re: Dense Gabriel Brown

Unless you are Chinese, low-band 5G means IoT connection. Lots of devices exchanging data in short latency, but not a lot of data. No 4K youtube streaming here.

Unless you are Chinese, the only way to have multi-gbits throughput per user is to go mmwave.

If you are Chinese(and Japanese), it is possible to deliver mutli gbits throughput in below 6 Ghz band because their governments can deliver 200 Mhz wide spectrum per carrier. For everyone else, you have to go mmwave.
Gabriel Brown 5/11/2016 | 7:57:08 AM
Re: Dense It seems likely that 5G will incorporate a set of radio access technologies and operate above and below 6 GHz. I don't know any operator intending to use only mmWave. 
TV Monitor 5/10/2016 | 4:25:30 PM
Re: Dense Dan Jones

4.5G works well where it is available. The problem with 4.5G and Chinese 5G is that they cannot maintain per user throughput in dense areas as well as mmwave 5G systems which can recycle spectrum because mmwave beams are highly directional, but this is less of an issue in the rural area.
DanJones 5/10/2016 | 2:44:54 PM
Re: Dense Same as it ever was, just further magnified! That means no 5G, at least at mmWave, for large areas of the US.
DanJones 5/10/2016 | 2:43:42 PM
Re: Dense Same as it ever was, just further magnified! That means no 5G, at least at mmWave, for large areas of the US.
DanJones 5/10/2016 | 2:36:09 PM
Re: Dense Same as it ever was, just further magnified! That means no 5G, at least at mmWave, for large areas of the US.
TV Monitor 5/10/2016 | 2:02:20 PM
Re: Dense Dan Jones

Well, people living in rural areas will have to rely on 4.5G instead. Even the Samsung 5G doesn't reach past 1.4 miles, so if you are living away from major highways, no 5G for you.

Small cell is only for dense urban area.
DanJones 5/10/2016 | 12:20:38 PM
Re: Dense Yeah for sure, but then we have the opposite problem as well. 5G assumes that density as part of the network deployment plan. How is that economically feasible in rural areas? I wonder about that...
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