Interoperability of Small Cells & the existing cellular networks - What’s the hold up?

Brought to you by The Small Cell Group

Small cells are proliferating in their many forms. To become a true part of the HetNet they need to be automatically and smoothly incorporated into the existing macrocell network, raising questions of standards, interoperability and performance.

Registration for this event is now closed.

About the event

3G femtocells created the first fully open interface in cellular history, with Iuh providing both control/data functionality and a management protocol on open standards. Plugfests and individual operator efforts have built on these foundations. Yet experience shows that there is a big gap between open standards and open interoperability, with a true multivendor environment still not being at anything like the level of, say today’s DSL modems. Is such open interop possible, or even desirable at this stage in the market?

While operators have called for interoperability between LTE metro/microcells and the macrocell network, the X2 interface has many different incarnations so a true open standard is not in place. Many vendors have small cell implementations which require tight coupling between their macrocells and small cells, sacrificing interoperability for claimed performance benefits. Operator initiatives have instead sought third-party SON ‘glue’ to unite the macro and small cell layers. Another level of interoperability is provided internally via interfaces such as FAPI (Femto Application Platform Interface) which aim to help vendors deliver consistent interactions between individual small cell subsystems.

Held at PwC London offices and kindly sponsored by Microlease & Keysight Technologies, this insightful half-day event will explore the need for interoperability, highlighting both the potential benefits and the associated sacrifices from both an operator and vendor viewpoint. It will capture current best practice, current challenges and chart the needs for the future. As with all CW events, there will be ample networking opportunities.

Speaking at this event:

  • Nick Johnson, Chief Technical Officer, ip access
  • David Swift, Marketing Director, Wireless Networks Marketing & Strategy, Alcatel-Lucent 
  • Neeraj Gupta, Senior Manager and Kreso Bilan, Telecommunications Systems Architect NEC UK
  • Bert Esser, Northern European Applications Engineering Manager, Keysight Technologies
  • Phil Claridge, Chief Innovation Architect, JDSU UK
  • Alessandro Bovone, Senior Manager, Network Strategy, EE

The Small Cell SIG is championed by Paul Kenworthy of Ranplan, Simon Saunders of Real Wireless, Simon Fletcher of NEC Telcom MODUS, David Chambers of ThinkSmallCell and Zahid Ghadialy of eXplanoTech.

We are also extremely grateful to Microlease & Keysight Technologies for sponsoring this event and to PwC for hosting it at their London venue.

To follow this SIG on Twitter, @CambWireless, please use #CWSmallCell

The Small Cell SIG is championed by Paul Kenworthy of Ranplan, Simon Fletcher of NEC Telcom MODUS, David Chambers of ThinkSmallCell and Zahid Ghadialy of eXplanoTech. We are also extremely grateful to Microlease & Keysight for sponsoring this event and to PwC for hosting it at their London venue.To follow this SIG on Twitter, @CambWireless, please use #CWSmallCell

Hosted by PwC UK

At PwC, our purpose is to build trust in society and solve important problems. Working across artificial intelligence, life sciences and AgriTech industry sectors with businesses in the region.

View profile

Jointly sponsored by Electro Rent

Electro Rent are test equipment specialists with over 50 years of experience providing access to the latest test and measurement technology.

View profile

Jointly sponsored by Keysight Technologies

Whatever your use case, when you are designing, emulating, measuring, or testing your next engineering breakthrough, Keysight has a solution to help you innovate faster and with more confidence.

View profile


Expand all

The information supplied below may be subject to change before the event.


Registration & Networking over Lunch


Introduction to the Cambridge Wireless Small Cell SIG from Paul Kenworthy of Ranplan


Welcome from our host Colin Brereton, Global Leader, Communications, PwC


Welcome from our sponsor, Chris Trim, Northern Europe Sales Manager, Keysight Technologies


Small Cells, What’s the Hold Up - a T&M Perspective; Bert Esser, Northern European Applications Engineering Manager, Keysight Technologies

Bert will take the theme of the day: “Small Cells - what’s the hold up?” and share some thoughts from a
T&M company perspective. Looking into some of the market drivers for operators and equipment
manufacturers and “translating” these to tangible challenges for T&M companies like Keysight.




Small Cell/Macro Interoperability in the RAN: Impossible Physics, Hard Design or just Red-Tape?; Nick Johnson, Chief Technical Officer, ip.access

• Why do we care about interoperability in the RAN?
• Some anecdotes from history – interoperability failures on Abis, Iu-b, Load balancing with picocells –
doing it right this time
• Beyond standards – NGMN, SCF and other interoperability initiatives
• Buridan Telecom – a cautionary tale
• The schizophrenic vendor – can I protect my incumbency and attack the incumbent without
contradicting myself?
• Interoperability and cloud-RAN – don’t get distracted
• Message of hope – what’s happening now – what’s happening next




Bringing Metro Cells on Air – Findings from the Field and the Evolving Impact of Open Access; David Swift, Marketing Director, Wireless Networks Marketing & Strategy, Alcatel-Lucent

• Why deploy Metro Cells
• Placing capacity where needed
• Beyond the AP Addressing Deployment Challenges
• Metro Cell evolution
• Service enablement




Coffee/Tea & Networking


Progress Towards Maturing the Small Cell Multi-vendor HetNet Proposition; Neeraj Gupta, Senior Manager, and Kreso Bilan, Telecommunications Systems Architect, NEC UK

Through 3GPP, Small Cell Forum, ETSI and NGMN collaboration the industry has established the critical
interfaces and best practices necessary to gain interoperability proof points in multi-vendor HetNet
deployments. This was recently demonstrated by the successful completion of a plugfest in July, involving a broad range of macro and small cell eco-system vendors. Neeraj and Kreso, as chairs of core working groups responsible for providing direction to these activities within the Small Cell Forum, will highlight the challenges that have been overcome, and those that are still to be addressed.




How well do Small Cells fit within Heterogeneous Management Solutions?; Phil Claridge, Chief Innovation Architect, JDSU UK

This talk will explore the extent to which operators can gain a good planning and operational insight into their small cell networks (both licenced and unlicensed). The talk will focus on management solutions where the small cell network contributes to single view of a larger heterogeneous network, with a strong focus on per subscriber experience rather than just equipment and network health. Will include a perspective on the information that can or cannot be recovered from operational networks contrasting standards, vendor Implementations, and future mature solutions.




Evolution or Revolution of Interoperability for Small Cell; Alessandro Bovone, Senior Manager, Network Strategy, EE

What does interoperability mean in a small cell environment? Can a mobile operator afford the challenge to manage a multivendor environment and maintain on the small cell layer the level of customer experience that is now achievable on macro cell?




Panel Session with all speakers chaired by Simon Saunders of Real Wireless


Fill in Evaluation Forms and Event Closes


Alessandro Bovone - CTO North & West Europe, Nokia

Alessandro has been appointed Nokia Strategy & Technology CTO for North and West Europe in May 2021. Alessandro is a passionate telecommunications network chief architect and customer CTO with 25+ years of industry experience working in many different areas and domains. In actual role Alessandro is accountable for Nokia North & West Europe strategy and technology evolution, holding key Nokia interface with Customers, Governments and Technology bodies. Alessandro’s today focus is on 5GAdv, 6G, NaaC, disaggregation and evolution of fix/mobile communication to achieve COP26 pledges.

Previously Alessandro played a key role in game changing telecommunication industry JV, M&A and takeover like EE (merge Orange UK & T-Mobile UK), MBNL, BT/EE, Nokia/ALU and some of key programme in UK and Europe like Emergency Service Network and commercial/public safety Air to ground.

Alessandro was at forefront of 3G and 4G deployment and 5G introduction in Europe and drive expansion of fix, convergence and digital transformation in Telco and wider test and introduction of innovative solutions like private wireless network, XGS-PON and IoT.

Phil Claridge - Founder, Mandrel Systems

Phil Claridge is a ‘virtual CTO’ for hire within Mandrel Systems covering end-to-end systems. Currently having fun and helping others with large-scale AI systems integration, country-wide large scale big-data processing, hands-on IoT technology (from sensor hardware design, through LoRa integration to back end systems), and advanced city information modelling. Supporting companies with M&A ‘exit readiness’, due-diligence and on advisory boards. Past roles include: CTO, Chief Architect, Labs Director, and Technical Evangelist for Geneva/Convergys (telco), Arieso/Viavi (geolocation), and Madge (networking). Phil’s early career was in electronics, and still finds it irresistible to swap from Powerpoint to a soldering iron and a compiler to produce proof-of-concepts when required.

Bert Esser - Northern European Applications Engineering Manager, Keysight Technologies

Neeraj Gupta - NEC Telecom MODUS

Nick Johnson - Head, UKTIN

Nick was founder and CTO of ip.access, the leading small cell infrastructure business based in Cambridge UK from its inception in 2000 to acquisition by Mavenir in 2020. As well as leading the ip.access product line from GSM to 5G, he chaired the Radio and Physical Layer Working Group in the Small Cell Forum and introduced the world to FAPI - the industry standard software/platform interface for small cells.

Nick brings an unequalled commercial experience to the UKTIN and is looking forward to it helping those seeking to exploit and contribute to the unrivalled inventive spirit of the UK, as well as informing the UK Innovation ecosystem into the foreseeable future.

SIG Champions

Simon Fletcher - CEO, Real Wireless

Simon joined Real Wireless in January 2016 as Chief Technology Officer, taking overall technical and innovation strategy responsibility across the company. He is a member of the UK5G AB, co-chair of the International WG, and member of the Climate WG. His long-standing association with the UK innovation eco-system through roles such as Director of mVCE and the Innovate-UK ICT-KTN brings a wealth of practical knowledge on open innovation to accelerate product and services delivery. Simon spent his formative years in telecoms infrastructure systems and product development. In NEC Corporation he played a key role in the formation of Joint Ventures for development of 3G and 4G products and established a core team that developed the first-generation of technology for 4G systems culminating in a Steering Board position in the LTE SAE Trials Initiative (LSTI). In recent times he has directed projects on future cities, the application 5G and IoT in industry verticals with an event horizon towards 2030. His long participation in Common Public Radio Interface (CPRI) and then directing Real Wireless engagement in H2020 and the 2016 NIC study on Future Comms infrastructure brings great foresight on a range of architectural evolutions underway in 5G architectures, in particular for Open RAN and Diversification. He is a CW Small Cell SIG Champion, and in February 2022 the Small Cell Forum (SCF) appointed Simon as their Chief Strategy Officer, drawing on 25 years direct industry experience and work as an advisor to governments, regulators and big business.

Caroline Gabriel - Research Director, Analysys Mason, Co-founder and Research Director, Rethink Technology Research

Caroline has been engaged in technology analysis, research and consulting for 30 years and since 2002, has been focused entirely on mobile and wireless. As co-founder and research director of Rethink Technology Research, Caroline has developed a significant research base and forecast methodology, based around deep contacts with mobile and converged operators round the world. This addresses critical issues and trends in mobile and wireless infrastructure, and particularly operator deployment intentions for 4G, 5G, small cells, Cloud-RAN and other technologies. She is also a senior contributor to Analysys Mason’s Next Generation Wireless research programme. She has led research and consulting projects with a wide range of clients, including mobile infrastructure vendors, large and start-up operators, regulators, trade bodies, government agencies and financial institutions. Her advice and forecasts have helped inform strategic decisions at a wide range of vendors, operators, start-ups and finance houses. Prior to setting up Rethink, Caroline held various executive positions at VNU Business Publishing BV, then Europe’s largest producer of technology related B2B reports and publications. She was the European content and research director, and was a member of the leadership team for VNU’s online business. She holds an MA from the University of Oxford.

Vicky Messer - VP Product Management, Picocom

Vicky Messer is VP of Product Management at Picocom with over 25 years of experience in the wireless industry. Vicky joined Picocom over 4 years ago and leads Product Management, Technical Marketing and partnership activities. Vicky also leads the Picocom Small Cell Forum (SCF) activities and joined the board member at Small Cell Forum (SCF). In recognition leading in multiple work items and a published papers, Vicky was awarded the SCF ‘Outstanding Individual Contribution to SCF award’ in 2020.

Vicky is a certified IET registration mentor, and currently mentors a local young female engineer. In May 2023 Vicky joined Industrial Advisory Board Bath University Electronics and Electrical Engineering and also won a SCF Industry Award 2023 for Women in Wireless.

Neil Piercy - Founder, Independent

Neil has been developing base stations for various communications systems for over 30 years, during which time he has performed roles throughout the whole development lifecycle, as well as management roles. Neil joined the small cell specialist company, ip.access, when it was formed as a spin-off from TTP Com back in 2000, and stayed with the company for 23 years, during which time his roles varied from System Architect through to Head of Engineering. As a Systems Engineer covering software, hardware, and RF, he includes specialist areas such as security and networking, as well as a focus on all aspects of protocol design and implementation. He has analysed system performance and performed simulations across GSM, UMTS, LTE and NR small cell RAN equipment and systems. He is now a freelance telecoms Systems Engineering consultant.

Simon Saunders - Visiting Professor, King's College London

Prof. Simon Saunders is an independent advisor and researcher with deep industry and academic background in communication systems technology and a burgeoning interest in the intersection between real and artificial neural systems, communication systems and music. He is a Visiting Professor at King’s College London, telecoms advisor to DCMS and Trustee of the charity Music for All.

Simon is a specialist in the technology of wireless communications, with a technical and commercial background derived from senior appointments in both industry (including Google, Motorola and Philips), academia (University of Surrey, Trinity College Dublin) and regulation (Ofcom).

He founded the Small Cell Forum and chaired this industry association from 2007-12, growing membership to 150 companies and working with 3GPP to create the first standards for small cells. He acted as Director of Emerging & Online Technology for Ofcom, leading Ofcom’s Emerging Technology programme and creating their Online Tech team. At Google (2015-20), he worked with operators globally to enhance wireless connectivity via a range of advanced technology initiatives, combining wireless networks, artificial intelligence and network virtualisation. As co-founder and Director of Technology for independent wireless strategy advisory firm Real Wireless (2006-15), he was responsible for overall technical capability and direction, providing independent wireless expertise and advice to operators, regulators, technology and law firms and wireless users. In 2019 Simon organised the world’s first 5G music lesson on behalf of charity Music for All, led by famous musician Jamie Cullum.

He is an author of over 150 articles, books and book chapters, including a popular textbook on antennas and propagation. He has invented over 15 patented wireless technologies and served on technical advisory boards of several companies and universities.

Event Location

Open in google maps

Location info

PricewaterhouseCoopers, 7 More London Riverside, London, SE1 2RT

Related events

  • Cambridge Wireless

    Backhauling the Rural Mobile Broadband Service

    Register now
  • Cambridge Wireless

    East of England Tech Collaboration

    Register now
  • Cambridge Wireless

    Risk, perception, management and mitigation in RF Safety

    Register now

Subscribe to the CW newsletter

This site uses cookies.

We use cookies to help us to improve our site and they enable us to deliver the best possible service and customer experience. By clicking accept or continuing to use this site you are agreeing to our cookies policy. Learn more

Reserve your place

Join the CW network

CW is a leading and vibrant community with a rapidly expanding network of nearly 400 companies across the globe interested in the development and application of wireless and mobile technologies to solve business problems.

Sign in to your account

Please sign in to your CW account to reserve a place at this event and to qualify for any member discounts.

Start typing and press enter or the magnifying glass to search

Sign up to our newsletter
Stay in touch with CW

Choosing to join an existing organisation means that you'll need to be approved before your registration is complete. You'll be notified by email when your request has been accepted.

Your password must be at least 8 characters long and contain at least 1 uppercase character, 1 lowercase character and at least 1 number.

I would like to subscribe to

Select at least one option*