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Femtocell pioneers form forum

Posted: 04 Jul 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:femtocell forum? femtocell pioneers? femtocells?

In an effort to bring open standards, interoperability and low costs toand avoid fragmentation ofan emerging technology, companies involved in the development and deployment of femtocells have formed the Femtocell Forum.

Holding their first plenary July 2 in London, ahead of the first Home Access Point and In-Building Conference which opened July 3, the group has revealed the names only of seven of the founding members of the Forum. "We have about 40 members and 60 companies will be represented at the plenary, but some prefer for now to keep their powder dry as regards membership," Simon Saunders, an independent consultant who will chair the Forum told EE Times Europe.

Those going public now include femtocell technology pioneers such as picoChip, ip.access, Ubiquisys, Airvana, Netgear, RadioFrame and Tatara.

'Who's who' list
"Some of the biggest OEMs and tier 1 communications equipment makers are involved, and we have a 'who is who' of the mobile operators on board, too," said Saunders, who added these "big names" will make public their involvement over the next few months.

"Getting this off the ground quickly was of the essence if the Forum is to make an impact of the way the technology and the take-up develops," added Saunders.

The initial focus will be on pre-competitive standards-focused issues including radio planning and control, device provisioning and management and device to network standardization. In addition, a marketing task force is being established will promote the benefits of femtocell technology for both operators and subscribers.

Saunders said the role of the operators will be crucial for the success of the technology, but would not comment on which ones are likely to be the first to deploy femtocells, or even which geographic area is likely to see it first.

"We have lots of trials in Europe, Asia and the U.S. and some big international groups and operators have indicated in all these areas they want to get this into their networks, but are reluctant to commit to a timeframe," said Saunders.

"I would anticipate we will see commercial services by the middle of next year, but the volumes will depend on how quickly the industry will be able to gear up to production. For the operators, the big issue will be radio planning and provisioning."

Femtocells provide Wi-Fi functionality over 3G networks. They enable reliable 3G connectivity inside buildings. The technology puts a small, low-power transmitter/receiver inside buildings and allows 3G handsets to connect to local cells and route calls over ADSL lines. The femtocell also connects to the home network, enabling content on the phone to be streamed to devices around the home, such as TVs and stereo systems, as well as giving the user access to all the normal 3G services at up to 7.2Mbps, assuming their handset supports HSDPA.

Early players
While Saunders would not name the other founding members of the Forum, companies known to be developing femtocell components and technologies include 3Way Networks, Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, Nokia Siemens Networks, NEC Corp., Samsung Electronics, Huawei Technologies and ZTE.

Commenting on the formation of the Forum, Guillaume d'Eyssautier, CEO and president at picoChip, said: "As the early protagonist of femtocells, picoChip is pleased to see other companies rallying for the cause. The femtocell concept has finally gained its own momentum and with the backing of the Femto Forum we can all steer it on a clear path to success."

A recent study from ABI Research forecasts that by 2011 there will be 102 million users of femtocell products on 32 million access points worldwide.

"All of the major mobile operator groups are currently undergoing trials and evaluations of femtocell products to add capacity and coverage to their networks," said Stuart Carlaw, ABI Research. "However the introduction of open standards will be critical in enabling an economy of scale that will better enable the OEM and semiconductor communities to meet very aggressive price points and stimulate the market."

- Peter Clarke
EE Times Europe

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