This week we saw an important milestone in the digital transformation of the Radio Access Network (RAN) with the publication of the Small Cell Forum’s nFAPI specification. Cisco has been instrumental in driving the small cell industry by championing the virtualization work stream within the Small Cell Forum that resulted in the nFAPI specification. nFAPI is specifically designed for realizing the interface between a Physical Network Function (PNF) that implements the RF and physical layer aspects of the small cell and a Virtual Network Function (VNF) that implements the upper layer protocol aspects of the base station. With 3GPP now analyzing how the future RAN will be virtualized, nFAPI prepares the foundation for 5G and its separation into PNF and VNF components.

small cell

For those who want to get an update regarding how virtualization is going to impact the realization of the RAN, we will be hosting a 2 hour session at Cisco Live next week in Las Vegas. The Radio Access Network Virtualization session will provide a review of RAN virtualization, detailing alternative approaches for how RAN controllers can be introduced into the flattened LTE RAN, and describing the benefits of centralization and virtualization of RAN workloads. The session further details how RAN virtualization is accelerating the multi-operator/tenant capabilities in small cell systems and how RAN virtualization enables new consumption models, including neutral host as-a-service offerings for the Enterprise. In a very exciting development, we will demonstrate the operation of a multi-operator, sliced, virtualized RANdeployed on OpenStack and orchestrated using Cisco’s Network Service Orchestrator.

I look forward to seeing you next week in Las Vegas!


Mark Grayson

Cisco Fellow

Cisco’s Emerging Technologies & Innovation Group