The Small Cell Forum (SCF) has published the first release of the 5G nFAPI 1.0 specification, a highly flexible next-generation network interface that leverages the widely adopted FAPI MAC/PHY API used in the vast majority of the millions of deployed System-on-a- Chip (SoC) based small cells. Following considerable interest in Open RAN and disaggregation from the mobile network operator community, 5G nFAPI Split option 6 is one of several functional split options to have been shortlisted as a candidate for further evaluation. The release of the specification will enable early implementations for evaluation by mobile operators and other deployers. SCF has also announced a roadmap for ongoing future implementation and ecosystem support.
The specification adds 5G network-FAPI (nFAPI) to the suite of established 3G, 4G and 5G API specifications already used in small cells the world over. nFAPI provides a transport wrapper around the established FAPI PHY API to create an open split option 6 interface between an S-RU and S-DU. nFAPI enshrines all of the principles of the open RAN ethos: S-DU functions can be virtualized and run on lightweight COTS servers or edge Cloud and can interoperate with S-RUs from any supplier. An open source reference implementation is available for FAPI and can extend to nFAPI.
“The flexibility and scalability of modular and virtualized radio access networks are primed to accelerate innovation in cellular infrastructure, help lower OPEX and CAPEX costs and enable a software upgradable network architecture,” said Puneet Sethi, Senior Director, Product Management, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc.
“Operators are currently evaluating the various approaches to building 5G networks which enable them to deploy disaggregated RAN architectures based on standard specifications to increase competition and increase economies of scale,” said Ravi Sinha, Director, Product Development and Solutions, Reliance Jio.
“This specification has brought together the combined knowledge and deployment experience of leading mobile operators, silicon vendors and telecoms software companies to enable an open interface for disaggregated small cell solutions,” said Ganesh Shenbagaraman, Vice President, Engineering, Radisys.
“SCF has been central to developing specifications for Radio Access Networks that encourage competition and innovation among suppliers from across the ecosystem,” said Dr. Prabhakar Chitrapu, Chair, Small Cell Forum. “Building on this proven track record, this announcement brings this considerable body of experience to bear on 5G Open RAN.”