Today, the Small Cell Forum announced their Release Two, publishing a series of more than 20 freely accessible new documents addressing all aspects of Enterprise Small Cells. This extensive volume of work is based on the requirements of the Forum's operator members to help address the challenges to enterprise small cell deployments.
We asked Gordon Mansfield, Chair of the Small Cell Forum, for some background about the release; who has been involved, who it's intended for and what the Forum plans to do next.
What has the Small Cell Forum been concentrating on this year?
Looking back over 2013, the Small Cell Forum continues to expand. We've added 25 new members this year which not only shows progress but broadens our ecosystem. Our wide membership, which to date is in excess of 150 members including 68 operators, allows us to cover almost every aspect of Small Cells - everything from chips to OEMs to deployment. Furthermore the composition and balance of our board equally represents all major sectors of the ecosystem giving us the right structure and knowledgebase.
Release One, which was themed around Residential Small Cells, was published in February 2013. We've already had over 30,000 document downloads to date, which has exceeded our wildest expectations.
We've also held our first LTE plugfest, testing interworking and compatibility between different LTE Small Cell vendor products. This helps prepare the way towards where the industry is heading in the long term.
The vast majority of our effort this year has been on Release Two, which is a comprehensive and thorough publication of over 20 new or substantially revised documents.
What do you include in the scope of the Enterprise?
We don't limit this just simply to small, medium or large businesses but also include retail, hospitality, hotels and governments buildings. In fact, the scope includes any non-residential building which needs good cellular coverage.
The difference in scope between the Enterprise and our forthcoming Urban release next year depends on what is driving the deployment. Where in-building coverage is the major driver, the solutions are described in the Enterprise release. The Urban Release will primarily cover capacity driven deployments, some of which will be indoors but the majority outdoors.
The full documentation set is similar in nature to our first Residential release. It's all-encompassing, addressing both technical and commercial considerations. You'll find everything from detailed deployment considerations to business case templates. We understand that every operator has their own views about what makes up a good business case, so have broken that down to allow any specific option to be removed. The market drivers include more than just those for the operator and also consider what's in it for the enterprises themselves.
The audience for these documents includes virtually everyone in the industry – there's something for everybody. We wanted to make sure we included everything that the various parts of the ecosystem need to know and also to be thought provoking.
The starting point for readers is the overview document. This provides a good overall description of the body of work and is a key document to read first to figure out which areas are most relevant. I'd expect this to be the most popular document in the set.
We also have one specific document focused on IT network considerations and recommendations which we think would be very relevant to any Enterprise IT integration groups.
Are there any particular aspects for Enterprise that could need further development?
When you go back and review any documents you can always find things that can be brought up to date; that's why we review all documents prior to each release. I have no doubt that subsequent releases will add incremental information as more becomes available. Deployment experience is probably one aspect where we are still at a relatively early stage. Although we have some good insights in the document already, it is inevitable that we will be able to update further as these mature and we learn more. I'd also expect the regulatory document to be updated to reflect future regulatory changes.
The overall release structure and roadmap have also been updated. The majority of documents in this release are completely new.
Who has contributed most to the Release?
I've been very impressed by the amount of new engagement throughout the organisation, making this a pretty widespread effort. Our new members have quickly begun to participate which helped spread the load.
I'd say our release steering committee has really driven this to closure, collating and combining various inputs from the special interest groups into a coherent and fully aligned document set. The team (Mark Grayson/Cisco, Nick Johnson/ip.access, Andy Odgers/Quortus and Julius Robson/CBNL) have done a truly remarkable job.
Carrier Wi-Fi has been making great strides recently. How might that affect take-up of Enterprise Small Cells?
I don't think Carrier Wi-Fi will overtake Small Cells but it will make a substantial contribution to how data traffic is handled. Most operators talk about Carrier grade Wi-Fi as a complementary solution to Small Cells. We should expect to find a balance. Some services make most sense on licensed spectrum, where you can control the end-to-end performance. Others may work perfectly satisfactorily on Wi-Fi.
Linking licensed Small Cells with Carrier grade Wi-Fi will both ensure security and offer a seamless method of switching traffic between them, and is a pretty powerful combination for both operators and enterprises alike. If you can manage the traffic by applying policies to switch the real-time traffic over licensed radio spectrum and balance the traffic where and when congested, you would be able to give great Quality of Service (QoS) to end users.
Today, Enterprises talk more and more about mobile first. Good voice service is essential. A balance of Wi-Fi and cellular makes most sense.
Is the Enterprise Small Cell marketplace open for new entrants?
I'd start from the viewpoint that you can't forget about voice service. I've seen a lot of people entering the Enterprise space who want to drive an LTE only solution.
This is certainly viable in the long term after VoLTE takes hold and many more deployed handsets support it. In the meantime, just about all operators who have launched LTE today are still very focused on the majority of handsets using 3G UMTS for voice. This drives the need in the short run for a multi-standard type of Small Cell as you begin to deploy LTE. The Enterprise is telling us that voice is king, so we have to look at products that make that possible.
There are multiple use cases that fit multiple types of solution, and there is a place for every type of product that we see out there today. As is the case in all things, it comes down to economic drivers. When you think about the majority of building real-estate – mostly small to mid-sized buildings – then traditional Small Cells, which is our primary focus in the Forum – are going to be the dominant drivers in those use cases. If you look at some extreme cases, such as very large buildings, then DAS and other products may have a place, but I believe the majority of situations will be more commercially solved using Small Cells.
Analysts forecast that Enterprise Small Cells will become a substantial sector of the industry, with Mobile Experts predicting 11.5 Million non-residential indoor Small Cells deployed by 2018.
What's coming next – Release Three?
Our next Release Three is themed around Urban Small Cells. This is mostly about outdoor Small Cells, but would include those deployed indoors primarily for capacity. We had initially planned for this to be published in full at Mobile World Congress in February 2014. However, we have learnt from our work on Release One and Two that each release must be built on an initial set of foundation documents, after which the remainder can be developed. Since the full set won't be ready in time for our initial deadline, we have decided to split the release into two parts.
We'll publish the foundation documents for Release Three in February and the remainder in June 2014, at the time of Small Cell World Summit.
We have purposefully not driven too much conversation about what comes next. There will be a Rural Release which can build and expand on the existing documents so we don't expect that to be as heavy workload as the enterprise or urban documents.
Of course, as we continue to learn more, all these documents will be updated to reflect our latest thinking and best practice.
Where can I find more about the documents?
The full document set can be downloaded at http://scf.io
We recommend you start with the Release Two overview document, and go from there.