Small Cell Forum release guide of virtualization best practices
DALLAS – The Small Cell Forum published its latest technical guide detailing best practices for operators planning to deploy network functions virtualization. Small cell virtualization is expected to be a key enabler of “5G” technology, heterogeneous networks, enterprise services and the “internet of things” offering benefits of scalability, agility, cost reduction and network slicing.
Virtualization allows network functions to be separated from the radio and run on commodity hardware, including the cloud. This allows resources to be scaled dynamically according to the number and type of mobile services in use. NFV also provides a stepping stone to network slicing, which allows virtualized network resources to be carved up and assigned on-demand, enabling new wholesale connectivity business models or multi-operator sharing.
To date, industry approaches to radio access network virtualization have mainly been vendor proprietary, risking fragmentation and delaying progress, according to Small Cell Forum. Release 8 is designed to offer a unified set of guidelines, interfaces and specifications allowing operators to approach virtualization in an efficient, interoperable and future-proofed way.
“The benefits to the mobile industry of virtualization are clear, with a range of major advantages including cost reduction, scalability and the ability to offer a broad range of new services,” said David Orloff, chair of Small Cell Forum. “However, as with many new technologies the threat of fragmentation is very real. Small Cell Forum is in the vanguard of this movement and the experience from this sector is invaluable to the wider industry, particularly in light of 5G and IoT. We are proud to have delivered Release 8, which will help accelerate virtualization industry wide.”
Central to Release 8 is an open interface specification that splits the small cell into physical and virtual components, called network functional application platform interface. This is set to define a fronthaul link between physical and virtual, which can be transported over the packet Ethernet connections widely available in enterprise, urban and campus deployments.
Release 8 also contains documents designed to accelerate commercial adoption of virtualized small cells, including details of network architectures, management, transport performance requirements, impact on deployment and operations.