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The Small Cell Forum has published a comprehensive overview of the components and interfaces that comprise a 5G NR FR1 small cell distributed radio unit. The SCF251 5G NR FR1 Reference Design makes the case for a common, modular architecture for 5G small cell distributed radio units.

This work lays the foundations for the development of reference designs focused on delivering greater flexibility and scalability, including the ability to swap out regionally specific RF front end (RFFE) modules.

Small cells come in a growing variety of form factors, with different architectures, power levels and designs to address a diversity of use cases. Currently, the interfaces between different vendors’ small cells, or between different functional splits, are not uniform. This can increase cost, complexity and integration time and reduces scale.

Victor Torres, VP Marketing, arQana Technologies and project lead, said: “Our comprehensive review of 5G small cell distributed radio units found that, in terms of flexibility, the biggest issue is that the RF front end will be different, depending on frequency of operation, output power and other key factors.”

“Our paper argues that the solution to this challenge is a modular approach to small cell network design, in which a variety of RFFE designs can be interfaced in a standardised way to the same, common baseband and transceiver units. This means that the RFFE can be swapped in and out to support different markets without changing the rest of the hardware platform.”

This paper will be a useful reference for the entire wireless infrastructure ecosystem, but is especially targeted at:

  • Component makers looking to prioritize their development efforts on the areas of highest demand.
  • Private network, neutral host, and mobile network operators to inform their configuration and architecture choices.
  • System integrators and ODMs to reduce development effort.

The lead contributors to the document were Analog Devices, arQana Technologies, Picocom and Senko Advanced Components.

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