Small Cell Forum (SCF) unveiled a proposed global framework for hosted Open RAN networks combining the qualities of established and emerging neutral host architectures ranging from site share and distributed antenna systems (DAS) to small cells with Citizen Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) and Joint Operator Technical Specifications for Neutral Host In-Building (JOTS NHIB). 

TowerCos and neutral hosts have long worked with MNOs in supporting network deployments, particularly in scenarios where sharing is beneficial or essential. The deeper the sharing, the more savings are possible, the faster the deployment and the more standardized the service offering to the MNOs. Neutral hosts recognize all mobile operators have unique strategies for their network build outs, and have different needs for incorporating hosted elements. At the same time, the mix of different sharing models presents complexity for the N.H. provider, so harmonized approaches are desirable. 

Several regions are homing in on hosting frameworks which fit with the specifics of their markets—CBRS/OnGo in the U.S. and JOTS NHIB in the U.K. SCF neutral hosts see value in creating a global framework around these to recommend best practice and have proposed this as ‘Hosted Open RAN.’ This will provide a flexible and modular approach to hosting to meet different MNO needs, while reducing complexity for neutral hosts to lower costs and enable scale.

“As Open RAN is revolutionizing the way in which the mobile technology ecosystem can cooperate to build out 5G networks, so neutral host is having the same impact on the way in which networks are deployed and managed,” said Julius Robson, chief strategy officer, SCF. “Our Hosted Open RAN framework, developed by leading global neutral hosts and TowerCos, harmonizes a global approach to neutral hosting and private networks supporting flexibility for MNOs and scalability for neutral host deployers.”

SCF244 Neutral Hosting Architectures was produced by Small Cell Forum with contributions from members including: Cellnex Telecom, Crown Castle, Colt Technologies, Dense Air, American Tower, BT, Freshwave, Wireless Infrastructure Group, Extanet Systems, Commscope and JMA.

The group is currently working on detailed requirements for the Hosted Open RAN framework and welcomes contributions service and technology providers active in this space.