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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.

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Jointly sponsored by Electro Rent

Microlease is the expert in Test and Measurement Equipment.

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Jointly sponsored by Keysight Technologies

Keysight delivers advanced design and validation solutions that help accelerate innovation to connect and secure the world.

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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 is a passionate telecommunications network chief architect with 20 years of industry experience. In actual role in Nokia he is accountable with his team to build, propose and technically close deal for EtoE solution for mobile and fix networks to Nokia customers, working across the Nokia wider portfolio and interacting with R&D and product owners. Working on 4G and 5G network solutions for eMBB, URLLC, IoT and its evolution to mMTC. Alessandro also cover IP, optics, cloud, Fibre, virtualization and digitalization.

Alessandro provides for customers the first point of discussion for the introduction of new technology based either on international standards or customer specific requirements.

Alessandro is a team player with strong team management background, bringing clarity, depth and breadth to a wide range of technology and business challenges faced in the mobile, fix and convergence network evolution. A Technology leader and strong communicator striving to provide direction and clarity in decision making in the technology governance arena.

Alessandro has been a key player and worked in game changing industry JV, merge and takeover like Siemens ICN & NEC (JV for intro 3G), EE (merge Orange UK & T-Mobile UK), MBNL (JV H3G & T-Mobile UK), BT (takeover EE), Nokia (takeover Alcatel-Lucent) and some of key programme in UK and worldwide like first intro of data in 2G, first launch of 4G in UK, Olympics 2012, neutral host for UK MNOs and Emergency Service Network to mention some of them.

Alessandro holds a Diploma in Mathematics, Electronics & Telecommunication, Master’s degree (Laurea) in Electronics & Telecommunication Engineering, Executive master’s in marketing & Sales. He is member of Italian Albo Ingegneri equivalent to a Chartered Engineer.

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 - Chief Technical Officer, ip.access

Nick founded ip.access in 1999, and has been CTO ever since.  He was founding chair of the Radio and Physical Layer working group of the Small Cell Forum and the Innovation Architect in the Horizon2020/5G-PPP project SESAME.  He represents ip.access technically in its CBRS Alliance activities. Currently leading the Product And Technology group Nick is responsible for keeping ip.access at the leading edge of small cell innovation in its major markets. Nick is an inventor on 20-odd patents worldwide, has a PhD in Microwave Scanned Imaging Techniques from University College, London, and an MA in Physics from the University of Cambridge.

SIG Champions

Simon Fletcher - CTO, 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.

Neil Piercy - AVP System Engineering, Mavenir

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 Mavenir as part of the ip.access acquisition in Sep 2020, having been with ip.access since it was formed as a spin-off from TTP Com back in 2000. His specialist areas include security and networking, as well as a focus on all aspects of protocol design and implementation, and on system performance and simulation across GSM, UMTS, LTE and now NR small cell RAN equipment and systems. Now as AVP System Engineering he is responsible for the development and delivery of ip.access products, as part of the Mavenir group.

Simon Saunders - Visiting Professor, King's College London, Advisor, Real Wireless

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

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Location info

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

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