A new practical working guide released by operator and vendor body Small Cell Forum (SCF) details technical and commercial best practice for operators who are looking to deploy network function virtualisation (NFV).
In its recently published Release 8, SCF combines unique experience of real-world deployments of NFV technology today with small cells at the network edge, which will be invaluable in building out the networks for the future. Small cell virtualisation will be a key enabler of 5G HetNets, enterprise services and the IoT, offering significant benefits including scalability, agility, cost reduction and network slicing.
Virtualisation 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, providing a stepping stone to network slicing which allows virtualised network resources to be readily carved up and assigned on-demand, enabling new wholesale connectivity business models, or multi-operator sharing.
Release 8 has an open interface specification called nFAPI (network functional application platform interface) which splits the small cell into physical and virtual components. nFAPI defines a fronthaul link between physical and virtual that can be transported over the packet ethernet connections widely available in enterprise, urban and campus deployments.
David Orloff, chair of the Small Cell Forum, said: “The benefits to the mobile industry of virtualisation are clear, with a range of major advantages including cost reduction, scalability and the ability to offer a broad range of new services. However, as with many new technologies the threat of fragmentation is very real.”