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.