The Small Cell Forum has unveiled Release 5.1 of its industry roadmap, exploring the options for and benefits of virtualising small cell technology.
Release 5.1 outlines small cell visualisation options from both a technical and commercial standpoint, including an analysis of the costs involved and the perceived benefits such technology could bring.
According to the industry body, the new roadmap identifies a means of speeding up the transition to virtualised small cells by using a Functional Application Platform Interface to split the media access controller from the lyrical layer.
It claimed the approach was “well aligned with both the packet switched backhaul service conventionally used to support small cell deployment”.
Alan Law, Chair of Small Cell Forum, commented: “We’ve found clear benefits and drivers towards centralisation and virtualisation of the small cell network.
“These facilitate the scalability of small cells and enable functions to be moved around depending on loading conditions or availability of compute and transport resources.”
The group cited research from Maravedis-Rethink indicating that the majority of operators deploying small cells will also look to deploy virtualisation in parts of their radio access network (RAN).
According to the analyst firm, over 90 percent of operators deploying cloud-RAN (cRAN) will also be using urban small cells.
Small Cell Forum said that this created an “urgent need” to explore the potential of small cell virtualisation within cRAN and virtualised-RAN.
This is increasingly vital as operators begin looking at how small cells can fit into heterogenous networks, as well as the impact of new technology such as License Exempt Spectrum and self-organising networks, it added.
Sue Monahan, CEO of Small Cell Forum, said: “Small Cell Forum has always had a strong focus on interoperability and some of our most influential work to date has been around integrating small cells with not just the macro network, but with service integration, Wi-Fi technologies and enterprise networks.
“What we’re seeing now is small cell deployments really ramping up and being used as part of true HetNets, with operators taking advantage of a range of different technologies to deliver the best subscriber experience.
“Our new roadmap will help operators accelerate the delivery of integrated HetNet deployments, while also leveraging new trends from virtualisation through to 5G, M2M and LAA.”