Light Reading

3GPP Picks Femtocell Standard

Michelle Donegan
LR Mobile News Analysis
Michelle Donegan

The squabbling over competing 3G femtocell designs is over, as the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) standards body has adopted an official architecture and started work on a new standard for home base stations.

The 3GPP’s aim is to have the new standard completed by the end of this year, which would be a faster outcome than might have been expected, considering that vendors were still duking it out over a common approach just a few weeks ago.

What’s new is the specification for the interface between the Home Node B (HNB), which is 3GPP-speak for femtocell, and the Home Node B Gateway (HNB-GW), which is the 3GPP term for femtocell gateway. The new interface will be called Iu-h and is a blend of existing standards Iu and generic access network (GAN), sometimes referred to as unlicensed mobile access (UMA).

The 3GPP chose the solution backed by Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), Kineto Wireless Inc. , and its partners Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT), and NEC Corp. (Tokyo: 6701). (See Kineto Supports HNB.)

Originally, AlcaLu, Kineto, Motorola, NEC, Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. , Nokia Networks , and others all submitted proposals to the 3GPP for their particular flavors of interface for a feasibility study back in March. Faced with a logjam from so many different proposals, Kineto, Motorola, and NEC joined forces with AlcaLu, and they developed a joint proposal, which was approved at a 3GPP RAN plenary meeting last week.

“The 3GPP has said, ‘go forth and create the standard,’ ” says Steve Shaw, director of marketing at Kineto. “This is good news for us and for the femto community as well. We’re excited because the femto community now has a clear path to a standard.”

All femtocell vendors will have to make changes to their access points and network gateway equipment to match the new standard interface, but AlcaLu, Motorola, NEC, and those that already use Kineto’s GAN approach, such as Ubiquisys Ltd. , will have the least work to do. (See UbiquiSys, Kineto Interoperate, Kineto, Ubiquisys Team, and NEC, Kineto Partner.)

Ubiquisys announced today that it will have products ready that support the new standard by December of this year. (See Ubiquisys Supports Standard.)

“For us, Iu-h is really very close to what we currently do,” says Will Franks, chief technology officer and founder of Ubiquisys. “For us, there will be a relatively small amount of development work… Some will have to compromise more than others.”

The 3GPP also decided that the Home Node B will incorporate Node B capabilities as well as the radio resource management functions of a standard radio network controller (RNC). The Home Node B Gateway, which aggregates traffic from lots of Home Node Bs, will connect to the mobile core using existing standard Iu-cs and Iu-ps interfaces.

This approach is in line with the reference architecture recently agreed upon at the Femto Forum Ltd. , which also has a broader focus to encompass all radio access technologies, including CDMA and WiMax. The Forum played a role in helping to reach a consensus among competing vendors' solutions. (See Vendors Unite on Femtocell Architecture, Femto Forum Tackles Integration, and Cisco, Ericsson Swell Femto Forum Ranks.)

The 3GPP decisions mean that a 3G femtocell standard should be adopted in the near future, which will be a big step toward interoperability between femtocell access points from different vendors and mobile operator networks -- which could help to drive down the cost of the appliances.

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Unstrung

(3)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 3:39:27 PM
re: 3GPP Picks Femtocell Standard
Michelle, can you please cross check your sources? Looking back over the 3GPP documents it sure seems to me that there is very little of Kineto's original GAN based ideas in the final approach in 3GPP/RAN.

They originally wanted to re-code RANAP into GAN messages but now I see RANAP messages going all the way down to the femto.

Oh, isn't standards making fun!
Michelle Donegan
Michelle Donegan,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 3:39:26 PM
re: 3GPP Picks Femtocell Standard
Yes, fun is the word! Thanks for this input. Can you drop me a line at I'd like to follow up with you on this.

User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 3:39:25 PM
re: 3GPP Picks Femtocell Standard

It's possible the messaging in the article might be just a little on the strong side :-)

The current 3GPP work item has essentially identified what the solution will look like which is a big step forward, however there is still a lot of specification work to be done to get to the final protocol definition over the next 5 or 6 months.

Nevertheless, it is clear that there are several requirements as proposed by the Alca-Lu/Kineto/NEC/Motorola joint submission that were first realized in GAN and will now be included in the final specification. I'm thinking of areas such as UE and AP Registration with the HNB gateway in particular, as well as the potential addition of Discovery (currently FFS). These features will be supported over the proposed HNBAP layer which is a new concept for those that have not implemented a GAN-style approach previously.

The real story here, though, is that the operator community was adamant a solid femto standard was required ASAP, and that the vendor community responded quickly. That response involved compromise from all parties in various areas of their own proposed solutions to enable operator's to have confidence that things are moving in the right direction.

Educational Resources
sponsor supplied content
Educational Resources Archive
From The Founder
The comms industry is rallying to the cause of open, independent interoperability testing.
Flash Poll
Live Streaming Video
CLOUD / MANAGED SERVICES: Prepping Ethernet for the Cloud
Moderator: Ray LeMaistre Panelists: Jeremy Bye, Leonard Sheahan
Telecom Innovators Video Showcase
Tail-f, Cisco & What the Future Holds

10|9|15   |   8:17   |   (0) comments

Steve Saunders meets with Tail-f's Director of Technology, Carl Moberg, in Stockholm to discuss becoming part of Cisco, ETSI MANO, virtualization and the need to combine science and business in order to create opportunities for service providers.
LRTV Interviews
Broadband Forum Embraces SDN & NFV

10|9|15   |   02:42   |   (0) comments

At Gigabit Europe 2015, Robin Mersh and Kevin Foster from the Broadband Forum explain how the industry body is adapting to meet the SDN, NFV and cloud needs of the access network sector.
LRTV Interviews
Top Tips for FTTH Operators

10|8|15   |   02:26   |   (0) comments

At Gigabit Europe 2015, Ventura Team co-founder Richard Jones talks about some of the key business case considerations for FTTH network operators.
LRTV Interviews
M-net Calls for FTTx Unity

10|8|15   |   03:45   |   (0) comments

At the Gigabit Europe event, Jörn Schoof from M-net, the Munich city network operator, calls for industry collaboration on fiber broadband access rollouts.
LRTV Documentaries
The Business Case Challenge for NFV

10|7|15   |   03:47   |   (0) comments

Virtual CPE is one of the early success stories for network functions virtualization, as service providers are finding flexible, programmable CPE solves a lot of logistics problems and reduces their cost. But even here, Masergy Communications faced a business case challenge, says CTO Tim Naramore.
LRTV Interviews
JT Offers Some Gigabit Lessons

10|7|15   |   4:08   |   (1) comment

Barna Kutvolgyi, managing director, Global Consumer, at JT, the incumbent operator on the island of Jersey, talks about how other service providers can learn from his company's gigabit broadband rollout experiences.
LRTV Interviews
AT&T's Chiosi on the Potential of Open Source

10|6|15   |   06:27   |   (0) comments

AT&T Distinguished Network Architect Margaret T. Chiosi talks to Light Reading's Carol Wilson about the potential for open source technology to liberate communications service providers.
LRTV Interviews
Network Security in a Gigabit World

10|6|15   |   05:52   |   (0) comments

Masergy's James Harrison talks about some of the network security and data center issues network operators need to consider as they expand their broadband services portfolios.
LRTV Documentaries
Telefónica: In Search of Virtual Simplicity

10|5|15   |   07:30   |   (0) comments

Francisco-Javier Ramon Salguero, head of Telefónica's NFV initiative, admits virtualization initially means greater complexity, but with the right abstraction layer, it is possible to create a services-driven network architecture. He explains how Telefónica's current trials and initiatives are aimed at doing that, and what his company and other carriers need to ...
LRTV Interviews
Gigabit Europe Takeaways

10|5|15   |   03:47   |   (0) comments

Participants from the inaugural Gigabit Europe event in Munich share their key takeaways from the conference.
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
Intel Urges Women to Take Advantage of Their Seat at the Table

10|5|15   |   4:27   |   (1) comment

Have inclusive and constructive conversations, attach a bigger meaning to your work and get involved in the cause, Intel's Monique Hayward advises women in comms.
LRTV Interviews
BT Updates on Plans

10|2|15   |   03:16   |   (2) comments

Peter Bell, CIO at Openreach, the access network division at UK incumbent BT, provides an update on the operator's trials and how Openreach is planning to deploy the broadband technology in its street cabinets.
Upcoming Live Events
October 14-15, 2015, New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, New Orleans, LA
November 5, 2015, Hilton Santa Clara, Santa Clara, CA
November 17, 2015, Santa Clara, California
December 1, 2015, The Westin Times Square, New York City
December 2, 2015, The Westin Times Square, New York City
All Upcoming Live Events
Network appliances have a strong value proposition in today's networks and will continue to do so in the NFV and SDN-enabled networks of tomorrow.
Hot Topics
M&A Speculation Swirls Around Juniper
Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-chief, 10/6/2015
Cisco's Chambers Rules Out Political Bid
Mitch Wagner, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading, 10/6/2015
Cord Cutting? 'Fraid so.
Brett Sappington, 10/7/2015
Infinera Fleshes Out Its Metro 100G Story
Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-chief, 10/7/2015
Cisco Makes 'Martian' Connection
Mitch Wagner, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading, 10/9/2015
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
Webinar Archive
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
With so many new and exciting communications technologies now under development, it's easy to get caught up in the industry's escalating hype cycle. That's why the ...
Last week saw a big day in the 15-year history of Light Reading when Editor-in-Chief Ray Le Maistre and I were invited to interview the Deputy Chairman and Rotating ...
Cats with Phones
"What?! I'm on with Finisar about their stock price tanking" Click Here