A Femto First

7:55 AM -- Femto followers will be treated to an industry first next week at the Femtocells World Summit in London where Starent Networks Corp. (Nasdaq: STAR), Picochip , and Continuous Computing Corp. will get together to demo the newly approved standard for the tiny home base stations.

The demo marks a milestone for the nascent femtocell industry, because it signals to operators that the standard is real and that vendors are working toward interoperability. As with any new technology, equipment interoperability is critical for achieving high-volume deployments.

And so far, femto deployments have been small scale. According to a recent estimate from ABI Research , femtocell volumes in 2009 will be below 1 million. (See MWC 2009:T-Mobile Preps Femto Launch, Cisco Femto Spotted at AT&T, Sprint Takes Femtos Wholesale, Verizon Intros Femtocell, and StarHub Launches 3G Femto Service.)

The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) femto standard that the vendor trio will demo is euphoniously dubbed "Iu-h," and it defines the interface between the femto access points (home nodeBs, in 3GPP speak) and the femtocell gateways in the operator's network. Proper interoperability will mean that one day any vendor's femtocell will work with any other vendor's gateway and operators won't be locked in to a few suppliers.

The move by these vendors also kicks off wider interoperability activity. Separately, the Femto Forum Ltd. is organizing a big femto plug fest, which is expected to take place early next year.

The demo next week will comprise Starent's ST40 platform supporting the 3G home nodeB gateway, picoChip's picoXcell femto silicon and PHY software, and Continuous Computining's Trillium femto software.

Unstrung will be there to see the standard in action. See you there next week!

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Unstrung

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