Femtos Turn to DSL for Provisioning Smarts
The Femto Forum Ltd. has taken a leaf out of the DSL world's book in an effort to make home base station service provisioning and remote management as stress free as possible for network operators. (See Femto Forum Tackles Provisioning.)
Making the OA&M (operations, administration, and maintenance) as simple and as familiar as possible is an important step for the femtocell community as service providers engage in trials and consider their deployment and marketing strategies. (See Operators Feel Femto Frustration, France Is Favorite for Femto First , and SFR’s Femto Riposte.)
So to address the customer premises equipment (CPE) management challenges that high volumes of femtocells could pose to operators, the Femto Forum's members have agreed to adopt TR-069, a widely used and well known device management protocol typically used for fixed-line broadband services.
Adopting this protocol and adapting it for femtocells will introduce a standards-based approach to the so-called "zero-touch" provisioning (where consumers do little more than plug their femto access point into a power socket to make it operational) that femto suppliers are hoping to achieve.
TR-069 is a Broadband Forum technical specification originally written in 2004 and carries the rather formal name "CPE WAN Management Protocol." (The Broadband Forum was formerly known as the DSL Forum.) (See DSL Forum Changes Name.)
TR-069 covers auto-configuration and dynamic service activation, firmware management, and performance monitoring, such as diagnostics and connectivity and service control. There are two elements to the Broadband Forum's management specification: a TR-069 client, which is built into the CPE devices; and server-based auto-configuration software that communicates with the devices and the service provider's operations support systems (OSSs).
The specs are used for the remote provisioning and management of a broad range of fixed-line broadband CPE, such as DSL modems, set-top boxes, VOIP devices, and home gateways: The Broadband Forum is responsible for writing the data models that are specific to the devices that use TR-069. Today, more than 30 million devices are managed by TR-069 data models.
The Femto Forum is compiling a list of management capabilities and certain parameters that need to be added to TR-069, which the Broadband Forum will use to create a new femto-specific data model. The work is expected to be completed by the end of 2008.
"This is an important first step," says Simon Saunders, chairman of the Femto Forum. "Operators want to manage femtocells from [multiple] vendors in their networks."
Femtocell vendors say TR-069 is the most appropriate approach for femtocell management.
"The device should be easy to use," says Timo Hyppölä, head of indoor radio solutions at Nokia Solutions and Networks . "Neither the user nor operator should have much effort to install a [femtocell] access point. Making it work is a fairly sizeable exercise and we believe we can do it. TR-069 is useful and suitable for femtocells."
Some femtocell vendors, including Nokia Siemens, already use TR-069 as the basis of their device management systems, but the new Broadband Forum data model will establish a standard way for the femto industry to use the specifications.
— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Unstrung