Femtos Flesh Out Standards
The development is significant because the specifications for UMTS femtocells -- or Home NodeB in 3GPP terminology -- that were agreed to at the 3GPP meeting in December are firm enough for vendors to develop products to them. That means standardized femtocells could be available for the first time sometime this year.
Light Reading's new report, Who Makes What: Femtocells, shows that several femtocell access point vendors plan to support the new standard network interface -- dubbed Iu-h -- in their products this year. (See Vendors Unite on Femtocell Architecture, 3GPP Picks Femtocell Standard, Ubiquisys Supports Standard, and Kineto Supports HNB.)
While there are some outstanding issues around security and network management that are not yet complete, the fledgling femto market has, for the first time, a "full femto standard for UMTS," according to Simon Saunders, chairman of the Femto Forum Ltd. (See Femtos Turn to DSL for Provisioning Smarts .)
"It's the first standard for femtocells, period," Saunders adds. "The work that has been done has been truly impressive."
The lack of standardization for femtocells is a top operator concern, as shown in Heavy Reading's operator survey, "Femtocell Deployment & Market Perception Study." The majority of operators surveyed said that proprietary interfaces were a major problem for commercial rollouts. (See Operators Feel Femto Frustration.)
"Lack of standards was one of the top two barriers to deployment, according to operators in our service provider survey," says Gabriel Brown, senior analyst at Heavy Reading. "This is a good start, but there is still more to do in terms of interoperability testing and defining services and use cases."
The Femto Forum's Saunders says it's achievable to have the first interoperability tests by the end of this year, where different vendors' access points work with other vendors' network gateways. "It can be done," he insists. "We're looking forward to major progress on both conformance testing and interoperability in the course of this year."
But femtocells have another deadline to meet in March to complete the outstanding issues having to do with security and network management. Much like the case with the 4G Long-Term Evolution (LTE) standard that was accepted at the same 3GPP meeting last month, some elements were given a three-month extension for finalization. (See 3GPP Pins Down LTE Specs and LTE Focus Puts Pressure on Femtocells.)
— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Unstrung