Femtocells Continue to Make Headway

The members of the Femto Forum have agreed on a standard for management of femtocells, yet another step toward a commercial roll-out of the small base stations for wireless home broadband.

Femtocells improve indoor coverage and increase capacity. When a user is making calls and surfing the Web with a phone or laptop equipped with wireless broadband, signals are sent via the femtocell and a fixed broadband connection. For carriers they also provide a chance to offload users from the regular mobile network, and save money on backhaul capacity.

Getting the management in place is especially important because of how femtocells will be installed, according to Simon Saunders, chairman of the Femto Forum.

"Femtocells, unlike outdoor base stations, will be deployed in high volumes and installed by the subscriber, so the provisioning and configuration must be completely automated and managed remotely by the mobile operator," he said.

Whereas previously femtocell vendors used a variety of different management methods, which has been a concern to operators, they have all now agreed on a common standard that will allow operators to provision new devices, remotely solve faults and issue upgrades, according to Saunders.

The adopted standard, TR-069, was defined in 2004.

Recently there have been some reports regarding the delay of the first commercial services, but the Femto Forum has not changed its view.

"We've always said the technology is going to be ready for 3G femtocells at the end of 2008 or early 2009. Everything we see still supports this view," said Saunders.

The Femto Forum member list includes operators such as Vodafone, BT and China Telecom, as well as vendors including Cisco Systems, Huawei and Samsung.

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