Small cells will “dominate mobile network infrastructure by 2020” claimed the Small Cell Forum, as it unveiled a new framework for the deployment of the technology, designed to “pave the path for 5G networks”.

Speaking at a London press briefing ahead of the Small Cells World Summit, which starts today, forum chair Alan Law told Mobile World Live it was now becoming “critical for MNOs to take the small cell mentality”, as the forum revealed a blueprint for fully integrated multi-vendor, multi-technology HetNets, defining characteristics, components and technology requirements.

The plan, which consists of more than 20 documents outlining issues for operators and vendors deploying so called HetNets and planning for the migration to 5G, forms the “foundations of a full market defining release”, which is due to be unveiled in June.

In addition, the Small Cell Forum also published a summary of operator research, in collaboration with Rethink Research, on the market drivers and operator priorities for HetNet, surveying more than 70 Tier-1 and Tier-2 operators.

Among those surveyed, two thirds placed the “HetNet as very important or critical to their commercial success between now and 2020”. Included in the market research, operators also addressed overall business drivers, the essential role of self optimising networks (SON), enterprise, operator challenges, and other factors.

Enterprise driving small cells 
While much of the talk at this week’s summit will focus on 5G, Law noted the major driver behind the interest in small cells at the moment was actually coming from the enterprise.

Alan Law rs“That is where we are seeing the biggest growth, and it is much more about how small cells can benefit businesses,” said Law (pictured). “The technology is more mature so it can enable people to do more right now, and that’s where we are. As a forum it is important that we don’t lose sight and focus on making the most on what we can do today, and then keep our eye on the future.”

Small Cell Forum added that the number of small cells deployed had now passed 14 million, with growth in the non-residential segment continuing to accelerate, with 78 per cent growth in Q1 2016. Small cell revenue is also expected to more than double this year, after hitting $1 billion in 2015, according to analyst group Mobile Experts.