The Small Cell Forum, the independent industry and operator association that supports small cell deployment worldwide, has launched a new release programme which aims to provide operators with everything they need to know to deploy residential femtocells. 

Known as Release One, the programme is aimed at operators who have waited to deploy femtocells until the market and technology were proven. It provides the business case and all the technical detail – including recommended equipment specifications for RFPs – as well as best practice advice from operators that have already deployed small cells at scale.

The idea is to drive new deployments beyond the 46 big operators in developed markets who have rolled out the technology so far. Release One focuses on 3G residential femtocells but also contains information to simplify enterprise and public access deployments in both developed and developing markets.

“Femtocells alone outnumber macrocells globally and are expected to constitute over 85 percent of all base stations by 2017. Yet existing deployments have centred on almost 50 pioneering and mostly very large operators in developed markets," said Gordon Mansfield, Chairman of the Small Cell Forum.

“How do we help the next 150, more conservative, operators of all sizes from across the globe roll out small cells of all types? Our new Release programme is expressly designed to overcome this challenge.”

Over the next 12 months, the Forum will publish Release Two which will contain significant updates on enterprise small cells and Release Three on metrocells. These will include lessons from the deployments currently taking place as well as evolving approaches and standards.

Subsequent Releases will contain major updates to rural and multi-technology small cells which intelligently integrate 3G, LTE and Wi-Fi, reflecting the work the Forum is undertaking with the Wireless Broadband Alliance.

Speaking at a Breakfast Briefing at Mobile World Congress, where the news was announced, David Swift, marketing director at Alcatel Lucent said that enterprises today are generally choosing to deploy 3G small cells, but demand for LTE is rapidly appearing.

“Business are really looking for managed radio in the office. That means managed WiFi together with managed cellular service as a complete package. Today a lot of operators are rolling out enterprise small cells in two ways – one is plug and play for the smaller offices and managed services for the larger offices,” said Swift.

“As the licenses are now being freely published, you will LTE rapidly start to appear in both public service and offices.”

These services will be particularly important for enabling bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies, because after 4G begins being rolled out more widely, employees will be bringing a whole range of devices to work that require different types of connections.

Enterprises therefore need to start deploying small cells that aggregate licensed and unlicensed spectrum, and also support multi-operator frequencies. This means that the gateway needs to support multi-operator core network connections.

Ken Wirth, head of Customer Operations for North and Latin America at Nokia Siemens Networks, added that the provision of small cells in the enterprise is just beginning, and providing enterprise solutions is a very expensive solutions is a very expensive proposition for operators. 

“A lot of them are putting dedicated macrocells in buildings – that's not particularly cost effective,” he said. “LTE indoor metrocell enterprise solutions in North America, in Korea, in Japan – these are happening now. We will have products this year that will bring LTE to the enterprise.”