Small Cell Forum Releases 5G Small Cell Definitions, Architecture

The Small Cell Forum has released what it calls a “consensual view” of 5G small cell product definitions and network architecture.

Small cells will play a fundamental role in the deployment and operation of 5G networks. The amount of cell sites required for an effective 5G network mandates that the industry develop a standard approach to small cells.

Included in the Small Cell Forum’s most recent work:

  • Definition of a 5G small cell network
  • Top indoor and outdoor small cell deployment scenarios meeting 5G use cases
  • Summary of 5G small cell RAN architecture options
  • Summary of small cell regulation and power classes
  • Reference hardware configurations for the main 5G small cell products expected to be on the market from 2020-25

Small Cell Forum Architecture

The most popular deployment options among those currently planning disaggregated small cell deployments are known as Split 6 and 7.x, as well as dual-split architectures including Split 2, the Small Cell Forum said. In China, Split 8 is popular for indoor enterprise deployments.

Outdoor campus, urban and private networks are favoring Split 7.2 O-RU-based solutions, while split 6 S-RU based solutions are favored for indoor enterprise installations.

In smaller deployments, 2 and 4-layer MIMO are the most popular. However, 8-layer MIMO may be required in some larger enterprise campus, urban and private deployments, and potentially longer term.

“In the early days, small cells looked fairly similar, regardless of the environment in which they would be deployed, and were easily distinguishable in size, weight and power output from other mobile equipment. In the 5G era, small cells will be deployed in a far wider range of scenarios, and form factors and architectures will be extremely varied,” said Prabhakar Chitrapu, Small Cell Forum chair, in a prepared statement. “The form factor, power, size, interfaces and specification will vary according to the use case and deployment scenario, and with the introduction of virtualized, disaggregated networks, some small cells will consist of two or three elements, while others will still be all-in-one. It is clear that old definitions are now inadequate, and there are clear and present dangers of the industry fragmenting between hundreds of different designs with insufficient common features to achieve any scale.”

The adoption of 5G is one of the most important developments in the broadband industry and is driving a lot of investment. The implications go beyond mobile carriers, as fiber-based 5G transport will be critical and presents business opportunities for fiber network operators. We’ll continue to share 5G developments as they arise.


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