Cisco, Ericsson Swell Femto Forum Ranks
The Femto Forum Ltd. , the industry association for the home base station market, beefed up its membership today as Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), and 15 other companies joined the group's ranks.
The association also unveiled an initiative to streamline femtocell standards.
The Forum's news follows recent reports of big operators launching femtocell trials, including T-Mobile International AG , Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD), and Telia Company . (See T-Mobile Trials Femtos, TeliaSonera Preps Femto Trial, and Moto Trials 3G Femtocell.)
Femtocells are hot right now, and the variety of companies that have just joined the Femto Forum shows that everybody wants in on the action.
The Forum has grown from a handful of startups at its launch in July last year to a membership of 58 companies -- including some of the largest manufacturers and operators in the industry. (See Industry Forms Femto Forum, Operators Flock to Femto Forum, and Femtocells Brace for Big 2008.)
In addition to the new members, the Forum also announced an initiative to help its members simplify a multitude of femtocell standards.
The Forum wants to encourage the harmonization of the many different standards used to integrate femtocells into operators' core networks. At last count, the Forum identified 15 different femtocell architectures, which span all air interfaces including CDMA, GSM, WCDMA, and WiMax.
To streamline these different femtocell integration methods, the group has already created a reference architecture and agreed on a set of criteria based on operator requirements, including scaleability and multi-vendor support. The group will work on developing a consensus approach at its next plenary meeting in March.
"Operators aren't waiting for architectures to converge, but they will want fewer options as volumes increase," says Simon Saunders, chairman of the Femto Forum. "We want to refine the number of architectures to a much smaller number."
The Forum's work on femtocell architectures will help members formulate their contributions to standards bodies later this year. At the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) , for example, the Home Node B –- or femtocell -– is in the feasibility study phase and is expected to be adopted as a work item in March.
The Forum's work on femtocell integration and the new members show that the momentum in the home base-station market is picking up speed. Cisco made its interest in the tiny home base stations known when it announced a strategic investment in ip.access Ltd. last week. (See Cisco Invests in ip.access and CES: Cisco's 'Human Network' Has Bones.)
Also among the new members are session border controller vendor Acme Packet Inc. (Nasdaq: APKT) and enterprise fixed/mobile convergence company NewStep Networks Inc. (See WiFi Roaming Vexes FMC Providers, BT Picks NewStep, and Acme Shares Beaten After Earnings.)
For Ericsson, membership in the Forum does not change its position on 3G femtocells. The Swedish infrastructure giant maintains that it will have a 3G femtocell product ready in 2009, which is when it believes the market will be ready. Ericsson has a GSM femtocell integrated into a home gateway, which also includes WiFi access, a home router, and a DSL modem, but this product has not yet been commercially deployed. (See Cisco Invests in ip.access, CES: Cisco's 'Human Network' Has Bones, and Ericsson Stalls on 3G Femtos .)
The new operator members are BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA), Mobilkom Austria AG & Co. KG , SaskTel , SoftBank Mobile Corp. , Telecom Italia (TIM) , and Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD). (See 3G & WiMax Femtocells: The Operator View, Vodafone Picks Femto Vendors, Sprint Goes Femto, Vodafone RFP Fuels Femtocells, FT Preps Femtocell RFP, Is AT&T Putting Out Femto Feelers?, and BT Eyes Femtocells.)
The other new Forum members announced today are Genband Inc. , Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. , KTL , NXP Semiconductors N.V. (Nasdaq: NXPI), and Samsung Corp.
— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Unstrung