Small Cell Forum (SCF) published research setting out how edge computing will impact the future of small cell networks, with particular focus on private cellular networks.
A survey of service providers (SPs) for the paper shows that by 2025 almost 75% new indoor small cell deployments will be co-located with edge and/or private EPC.
Edge Computing and Small Cell Networks identifies core synergies between edge computing (EC) and small cell networks (SCNs) and highlights how those synergies are present across multiple domains – business, technical, deployment, product and vendor ecosystems.
It describes how the benefits of small cells co-located with edge can be applied to commercial and operational advantage in key industry segments, such as automation and Industry 4.0, worksites, mission critical services, enterprises and public safety. The paper looks in detail at the architectures and deployment considerations for edge and small cells in three premises-based use cases:
- Fully private cellular networks (PCNs)
- PCNs that have a roaming relationship with MNO networks
- PCNS integrated with MNO networks
While small cells and edge computing have significant potential to meet enterprise demand and drive new business models for service providers, best practice needs to be agreed and adopted, and technical barriers/gaps addressed to optimise that potential for both enterprises and service providers. Key areas of focus include:
- Edge network recommendations: For edge computing solutions, the ‘edge network’ has to work in concert with the ‘core network’ via open interfaces and APIs to enable true multi-vendor ecosystem. SCF believes that current specifications are incomplete and need enhancements.
- Edge platform services and applications recommendations: Open and consistent APIs across multiple organisations must evolve and align to enable a broad ecosystem of edge platform services and edge applications.
- EC platform solution recommendations: Blueprints/reference-designs/solutions for open-source edge computing platforms are urgently required for rapid growth of the EC ecosystem.
- EC and small cell recommendations: Design/deployment blueprints must be available for core use cases to best leverage small cell/edge synergies to deliver multiple benefits: shared virtualised implementations to cost efficiencies; integrated network functions & mutually beneficial analytics (radio environment, RAN characteristics, location etc.) to advanced functionalities to the edge computing platforms.
- EC infrastructure recommendations: In determining the COTS hardware for optimal edge computing infrastructure, service providers and enterprises shouldn’t be tempted to reinvent the wheel. There are already robust guidelines for data centre & hardware design & implementations from TIA, BICSI and OCP that should be followed.
‘The benefits of edge computing are well known, but what we have begun to demonstrate with this work is that small cells and edge will be critical for enabling service providers and enterprises to realise new profitable service opportunities,’ said Dr. Prabhakar Chitrapu, chair of small cell forum. ‘Small cells plus edge will also enable new business models for a broad spectrum of stakeholders, including edge infrastructure, edge network and edge platform as a service, as well as direct edge application services to subscribers, enterprises and service providers.’
Going forward, working in collaboration with other relevant Industry Forums, SCF will lead the development of a set of harmonised and consistent set of application, network & system-level APIs to enable small cell networks to facilitate EC services and applications.
SCF will also spearhead the deployment of design blueprints for core use cases, leveraging small cell/edge synergies and open source environments.
The research was made possible by an extended collaboration of MNOs, OEMs and Infrastructure providers, brought together by Small Cell Forum, including; American Tower, AT&T, Crown Castle, Druid, Intel, Nokia and Reliance Jio.
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