The Small Cell Forum makes the case for using sharing models to enable enterprises to take advantage of small cells. The key to multi-operator small cells, according to the industry advocacy group, is virtualization – separating the network functions from the radio and moving management and optimization to the cloud.
“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.”
Given the bring-your-own-device trend, most enterprises need a multi-operator solution. The report says: “In BYOD environments, the opportunity for an in-building enterprise solution to offer coverage and capacity from a plurality of network operators can be seen as beneficial as it is able to support the widest range of devices and associated subscriptions.”
For a nationwide enterprise, employees “may find themselves operating in markets that are preferentially covered by one particular operator and in other markets where the spectrum allocations favor another operator.”
The paper further covers the challenges and opportunities associated with multi-operator small cells, including 3GPP-defined network sharing techniques, WLAN architectures, the role of distributed antenna systems and operational aspects of sharing physical network functions.
- Having a choice of operators is a boon to business.
- In the case of an enterprise that uses temporary employees or contractors, multi-operator access is needed.
- Virtualization enables for multitenant small cells.
“Specific to physical network functions, carriers can share baseband processing, digital front-end and radio transceiver functions. This requires management based on agreed terms, Small Cell Forum suggests.”