The Small Cell Forum (SCF) is taking a strong leadership role in some key aspects, including the use of FAPI specifications in Open RAN and also Neutral Host small cell networks. In many ways the small cells ecosystem was a predecessor of the Open RAN industry today, in the sense that it was made up of several small software and hardware vendors each focusing on a specific component and complex system integration was often required to bring together the complete small cell end to end solution.
The market soon decided that it was important to agree a number of common interfaces in order to foster interoperability, innovation, competition and to reduce barriers to entry to new suppliers. The Small Cell Forum was the industry body that undertook to co-ordinate the development of open APIs for small cells, which took the form of the FAPI suite of interface specifications. The latest of these continue to be very relevant to the Open RAN ecosystem today. The functional “split 6” disaggregated architecture is adopted and developed by SCF in the 5G nFAPI specifications as it is particularly relevant to the virtualisation of small cell deployments.
It is noted that representation of UK industry stakeholders in the SCF is very high. Therefore, SCF can be seen as an example of how a home-grown UK ecosystem can steer a global industry body, inasmuch as the UK is often ahead of the market in incubation and adoption of small cell and neutral hosting technologies and business models. UK stakeholders are already leveraging the global reach of the small cell forum to create global engagement and influence.
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