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Wireless groups issue femtocell standards

Posted: 13 Apr 2009 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:femtocell standard? 3G? network mobile?

The prospects for commercial rollouts of femtocells took a major step forward with the publication by the 3G Partnership Project (3GPP), the Femto Forum and the Broadband Forum of the first global standards for the emerging technology.

The moveafter "extremely productive cooperation between the three bodies, as well as equipment providers and mobile network operators"paves the way for standardized femtocells to be produced in large volumes and enabling interoperability between different vendors' access points and femto gateways, Simon Saunders, chairman of the Femto Forum, told EE Times.

"This really fires the femto guns after some hard work in record time for the standardization effort," said Saunders. "What we asked for was for the 3GPP to standardize full protocols in Release 8 of their standards in 12 months, while they had the small matter of finalizing specs for Long Term Evolution (LTE) at the same time."

Work can now start in earnest on interoperability testing with products that are standardized, said Saunders. "We have already started developing and promoting test cases and scenarios in close collaboration with equipment vendors, and have been in touch with potential test facilities. I hope we can do this quicker than the typical two to three years it takes to achieve interoperability from the bedding down of a standard," Saunders told EE Times.

He added he is "very hopeful" that some European operators will soon commit to commercial deployments of femtocells this year. "Many have been trialing and got to grips with the technology. I am looking forward to an exciting 2009."

A recent survey by Heavy Reading suggested that lack of standardization was one of the main concerns of operators and a significant barrier to decisions regarding when and whether to deploy in their networks.

The femtocell standard covers four main areas: network architecture; radio and interference aspects (both of which were completed last December); femtocell management/provisioning and security (finalized this month).

In terms of network architecture, the crucial interface between potentially millions of femtocells and gateways in the network corecalled Iuhre-uses existing 3GPP UMTS protocols and extends them to support high-volume femtocell deployments.

The femtocell industry sealed a deal with the Broadband Forum last July to use the latter's well-tried and embedded TR-069 specifications to make home base station installation, service provisioning and remote management as easy as possible for network operators.

The standard is already used in some 30 million devices for device management of fixed-line broadband services and STBs.

Adopting this protocol and adapting it for femtocells introduces a standards-based approach to so-called "zero-touch" provisioning. This ensures that users can just plug their femto access point into a power socket to make it operational.

The standard also uses a combination of security measures including IKEv2 (Internet Key Exchange v2) and IPsec (IP Security) protocols to authenticate the operator and subscriber and then guarantee the privacy of the data exchanged.

Saunders said much of the work in the standardization groups was driven by the operators, who have been insistent that the dozens of approaches to integrating femtocells with mobile operators' core networks had to be filtered down to a single standard.

"And this is just a starting point in a sense. We will now build on this to further incorporate femtocell technology in the 3GPP's release 9 standard, which will address LTE femtocells as well as support more advanced functionality for 3G femtocells. Femtocell standards are also being developed for additional air interface technologies by other industry bodies."

- John Walko
EE Times Europe

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