The Small Cell Forum is the new name of the London-based Femto Forum, the result of a move to “better reflect its work which embraces residential, enterprise, metro and rural small cells as well as to prevent the perception that the small cell arena is fragmented.”

The mission of the group is to develop consensus on common approaches, standards and agreed best practice for all small cells.

“The Forum will address all small cells that operate in licensed spectrum, are operator-managed and feature edge-based intelligence – including what have been dubbed femtocells, picocells, microcells and metrocells,” it says. “It will also support the crossover between small cells and other relevant technologies including: Wi-Fi, cloud RAN (which connects cellular radio to cloud-based intelligence over fibre), Distributed Antenna Systems, as well as macrocells as part of the new heterogeneous network (hetnet) environment.”

The Forum also will address deployment challenges, including:

>> Finding appropriate small cell sites; delivering power and backhaul;
>> Managing interactions between small cells, macrocells and other wireless technologies; and
>> Effective interoperability and network management. 

“Femtocell technology was originally designed for the home but has since extended into enterprise picocells, urban metrocells and modern microcells for all manner of locations. The core technologies developed by members of the Femto Forum – including Systems on a Chip, provisioning systems, standardized gateways and other related innovations – lower the cost of licensed band solutions and facilitate easy deployments for all small cell products,” comments Simon Saunders, chairman of the Small Cell Forum “As such, it is the ‘small cell’ banner that now best represents these technologies and it is one that mobile operators are strongly endorsing. In fact, surveys show operators regard small cells as playing a more important role than macrocells in future mobile networks.”

Citing ABI Research results, the group says 4.3 million small cells (including femtocells, picocells and microcells) will be shipped in 2012, rising to 36.8 million shipments in 2016 (valued at $20.4 billion). Residential and enterprise models currently dominate small cell shipments, with 62 percent and 30 percent, respectively. ABI Research’s data suggests that, by 2016, while indoor small cells will be 94 percent of total shipments, outdoor small cells will make up 64 percent of the revenue.

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