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Overview

Small cells have attracted attention of engineers and researchers in the recent years. They are a solution, which has the greatest impact on ability to meet the 1000x network densification target which is set for 5G systems.
5G Small Cell Protocols is a software suite realizing functions of 5G-ready small cell base station. It follows a virtualized architecture with adaptive split of functionalities into those running on physical and virtual resources as depicted in Figure 1. 5G Small Cell Protocols consist of the following elements depicted in Figure 2:

  • Stack with component protocols belonging to Layer 2 and 3 and including Scheduler
  • Framework and Management Interface to MANO

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Figure 1. 5G Small Cell Protocols.

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Figure 1. 5G Small Cell Protocols architecture.

Comparison to 4G

The main difference in 5G Small Cell Protocols versus 4G (LTE) Protocols is in presence of virtualized component, Figure 3. In 4G all base stations functionalities are running on “bare metal” i.e., physical hardware chipset located at the base station. In 5G these functionalities are adaptively split into those that are running at cheap and low-complexity Remote Radio Head (RRH) and those that are running in the cloud.

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Figure 3. 4G Small Cell Protocols architecture.

Comparison to 4G

Virtualized architecture allows for so called network slicing, e.g., creating separable networks, which can serve different operators, as depicted in Figure 4.

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Figure 4. 5G Network slicing.

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Example use cases

Example use case Description
Indoor or outdoor pico and femto cells for capacity increase Small cells are a solution which has the greatest impact on meeting the 1000x network densification target set for 5G.
Verticals: public safety, military, automotive, smart cities It is expected that small cells will be implemented in numerous vertical markets including: private networks, smart cities, public safety, military, mobile networks and many more.
Any type of portable networks, including aerial, vehicular Portable networks give an opportunity to deliver capacity fast where it is needed. Small size and low power design typically attributed to UE are now also desired features of eNB.
Private networks Small cells high modularity, portability and ability to run in virtualized environment (cloud RAN) are important features for both public as well as private networks.

Key features

Feature Description
Network Function architecture Network Function architecture splits base station functionalities and allocates them on physical (RRH, small cell) – PNF – or virtual (cloud) – VNF – resources.
Network slicing and multi-tenancy The same RAN infrastructure can be used by multiple operators. The same RAN infrastructure can be used to create logical networks serving various purposes and performance targets.
3GPP support and backward compatibility 5G Small Cell Protocols will allow implementing not only 5G features but also before-5G releases from 3GPP. Backward compatibility also means support for interfaces such as FAPI.
Readiness for new 5G PHY Industry considers a couple of new solutions as candidates for 5G PHY. We have studied all of them and will support the following: unified frame concept, ability to handle new waveforms, massive MIMO and millimeter waves.
Efficient Radio Resource Management Scarce radio resource must be efficiently managed. 5G Small Cell Protocols include a stand-alone module called Scheduler which control radio resources and manages interference.

Applications

Application Benefit Who can benefit?
Small cell base station development Small cell protocols shorten significantly development time of small cell base station Base station OEM, ODM
Macro-cell base station development Protocols Framework can be used to bring virtualization benefits to macro-cells Base station OEM, ODM
Test and measurements (T&M) equipment development Small cell protocols shorten significantly development time of T&M equipment T&M OEM
R&D Small cell protocols serve as an embedded real-time operating platform suitable for research Research institutes, ODM, OEM, operator