The Small Cell Forum said it has laid the foundations for multi-vendor and multi-technology HetNets, and established a 5G roadmap by publishing the first tranche of blueprints for a comprehensive HetNet architectural framework.
Documents released on Tuesday form the basis of the forum's Release 7 specification, which it said will address the technology, deployment and regulatory issues facing HetNets and self-optimising networks (SONs) when it is issued in June.
A key document included in the initial tranche -- the 'integrated HetNet architecture framework: paving the path for 5G networks' -- covers the network architecture, management framework and systems that will be required for HetNets. The forum stated this document will be particularly useful as HetNet's become increasingly virtualised.
The forum also released documents offering a detailed analysis of SON use cases in enterprise and urban environments, an operator survey covering the key market drivers for deploying HetNets, the organisation's 5G roadmap, and details of some early deployments.
Forum chair Alan Law said the initial tranche of documents are "the first time that all the elements and requirements for full integration and automation have been clearly mapped and defined within an architectural framework."
Law explained that the forum "always supported the 'multi-x' characteristics that will be required in future 5G HetNets," which means its operator and vendor working groups are well positioned to "define, detail, and explain the characteristics, components and management requirements" of future HetNets.
The forum announced that global deployments of small cells have now surpassed 14 million. Non-residential small cells registered the greatest growth during the first quarter of 2016, while revenues are on track to more than double in 2016, having hit $1 billion (€877 million) in 2015.
Law said the figures show that the small cell market has already become a key element in the broader wireless equipment market and predicted the sector will "dominate network infrastructure by 2020."
However, despite Law's bullishness, IHS Technology recently reported that small cell revenues accounted for a fraction of the overall 2G/3G radio access network (RAN) market in 2015.
While the broader market generated $22 billion in 2015, small cell revenues amounted to $1.2 billion, the research company stated.
- see this Small Cell Forum announcement
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