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Small Cell Forum launches neutral host tech and standards group

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Its mission is to capture tech requirements for alternative deployment models serving enterprise and communities, for new entrants and mobile operators.

The Small Cell Forum (SCF) has launched an initiative to capture the technology requirements for ‘hosted’ networks. It will strive to ensure that mobile technology standards and solutions accommodate the growing number of service providers entering the market as well as those of mobile operators.

New entrants

New entrants include neutral hosts, private network operators, tower companies and systems integrators that are working with mobile operators to extend the availability and affordability of mobile infrastructure to SMEs, industry and communities.

Enabling enterprises and communities to provide connectivity for their customers, workers and IoT will “boost mobile economies and enhance experiences for [mobile network operators’] subscribers,” according to the Forum.

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

Rapid growth to 2026

SCF’s latest market status report predicts strong growth for indoor and outdoor neutral hosting – forecasting 37-40% compound annual growth to 2026. By that time, more than 70% of enterprises’ indoor 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.
•    Clarifying the line items common to all deployment models and those which must remain flexible to enable customisation while meeting the needs of various mobile operators on the one hand, and venues on the other.

This work will support the broader goals for the SCF’s community of neutral hosts and other deployers which are to:

•    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; and
•    share global regulatory best practice, simple and repeatable deployment processes, and socio-economic benefit case narratives.

Unique collection

“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 programme builds on recent work including SCF231 Options for indoor cellular, SCF235 Private cellular networks with small cells and SCF250 Neutral hosts on JOTS NHIB [Joint Operator Technical Specifications for Neutral Host In-Building].J