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December 03, 2013

Small Cell Forum Provides Pointers to Mobile Operators on Unlocking Enterprise Opportunities

It seems that in the wake of the just concluded Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S., when it comes to small cells there appears to be a lot to be thankful for.  Not only did Alcatel-Lucent introduce its Metro Cell Express Site Certification Program to speed outdoor small cell deployment, but the annual Small Cell Forum is out with Release Two: Enterprise - a technical and business case release to help operators, “Unlock the commercial potential of small cell deployments in the enterprise.”

In short, it appears that for all of us smartphone and tablet users, the industry literally and figuratively is moving to assure, “I’ve got your covered!” 

Minding the wireless coverage gaps 

The Small Cell Forum, which is dedicated to supporting small cell deployment worldwide, has produced a comprehensive package including over 20 new or completely revised documents to help overcome barriers to small cell deployment in the enterprise.

The release includes:

  • Market drivers
  • A comprehensive business case
  • Enterprise reference architecture
  • SON use cases
  • Co-deployment of cellular with Wi-Fi, enterprise IT integration
  • Backhaul and deployment advice

As noted by the Forum, the package, “Gives the reader the benefit of the Forum members’ experiences and best practice from successful deployments to date.”

Gordon Mansfield, Chair of the Small Cell Forum said: “Addressing the wide range of enterprise cellular requirements has conventionally been challenging for operators both from a technical and a business perspective. Using small cells enables challenges to be addressed in unique ways, to the benefit of operators and enterprises alike, delivering value for both.”

Mansfield further elaborated saying, “The deployment of small cells in the enterprise - which is primarily coverage driven - can be applied to government buildings, hotels, retail outlets and hospitals, as well as small businesses or corporate campuses. One of the key elements of this release is the independent business case, commissioned from Real Wireless, which finds a compelling commercial argument for small cells in almost every enterprise context.  In fact in all the cases examined except one, the payback period for both the operator and the enterprise was found to be less than a year.

“I am personally very proud of the Release Two initiative, which is the culmination of a great deal of hard work, commitment and innovation from our members. We are going to see significant growth in the number of small cells rolled out worldwide in the near future with the total number of indoor small cells estimated to reach 11.5 million by 2018. The Small Cell Forum’s release program will play a significant role in making this happen.”

This release follows on the Forum’s Release One: Home, which outlined small cell benefits as the name implies in residential contexts.  Interest in the first release was high with an estimated 30,000 plus  downloads.

All of this is part of an ambitious program by the Small Cell Forum to educate the entire wireless ecosystem from carriers to their suppliers and end users.  In fact, since the Release Program was instituted in February of this year, more than 50 new and revised documents have been published.

For those not familiar, the Small Cell Forum Release program provides a comprehensive set of technical and business documents to help deploy small cells in the home, enterprise, rural and urban areas. Each release includes detailed documents on key areas such as market drivers, business case, and technology information including standards, operator lessons, and a regulatory overview.  In fact, not resting on its laurels, the Forum is already promising that in 2014 it will publish its Urban material in two releases. 

For those interested, Release Two Enterprise includes the following documents

 SCF doc


Title with link to online document

Market drivers


Small Cells, what's the big idea?


Release structure and roadmap


Enterprise overview


Market drivers for enterprise small cells

Business case


Business case for enterprise small cells

Radio and physical layer


Small cell and Wi-Fi coverage study


Wi-Fi/Cellular radio co-existence in enterprise products


Enterprise reference scenarios


Enterprise SON use cases


Alternative enterprise small cell solutions


Synchronisation for LTE small cells

Network requirements


Enterprise small cell networks: Requirements


Enterprise small cell network architectures


Enterprise small cell & IT networks


Enterprises and multi-operator small cells

Regulatory aspects


Regulatory aspects of small cells

Backhaul and deployment


Backhaul for enterprise small cells: A topic brief


Deployment issues for enterprise small cells


Multi-technology (3G+LTE) small cells



Enterprise services leveraging small cells


Unified communication with small cells


Small Cell Zone services: RESTful bindings

The entire release is available to download from the Small Cell Forum Release site www.scf.io

As noted in the posting on the Alcatel-Lucent site certification program, the necessity and urgency of deploying small cells is in controvertible. The Forum cites statistics that more than 98 percent of operators think small cells are essential to their future.  They also highlight the critical issue raised by Alcatel-Lucent regarding complexity and the need for industry-wide collaboration. They noted, for example that current deployments of small cells overall have centred on roughly 50 large service providers in developed markets.  The goal of the Release Program is to, “Help every type of operator from across the globe to roll out small cells.” It is why the program is addressing each critical location-type since the challenges while complex to all settings vary tremendously depending on needs that must be met.   

The enterprise piece of this is a critical one. Creating easy-to-manage, high performance, secure networks that integrate a variety of not just wireless technologies but also those of the fixed network, presents a very long list of challenges that are unlike previous network transformations. In addition, the time frames for getting it right are much shorter for all of the stakeholders. 

The good news here is that the Small Cell Forum has over 150 members including 68 operators representing more than 3 billion mobile subscribers (46 percent of the global total), and also includes  telecom hardware and software vendors, content providers and start-ups. In short, they seem to have the critical mass to make their recommendations matter. Hopefully, this will translate into accelerated deployments since user demands for coverage and bandwidth are exploding, and operator appetites to meet those demands and launch new profitable services are exploding in lockstep.    

Edited by Cassandra Tucker

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