Femto Forum Hopes to Speed up LTE Developments

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The Femto Forum has published a set of application programming interfaces for LTE (Long-Term Evolution) in an effort to speed up the development of femtocells that use the mobile network technology, the organization said on Monday.

Femtocells are small base stations that can improve indoor mobile broadband 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.

The APIs (application programming interfaces) should help semiconductor manufacturers ensure their products work well in all LTE femtocell products and also interoperate with each other, according to a statement. They address three fundamental LTE femtocell functions: how to create the LTE signals; the order in which to send packets; and network monitoring, which is used to minimize interference with the operator's regular mobile network and improve femtocell coverage.

Today, there are 17 deployments of femtocells around the world, and another five commitments to deploy, a spokesman for the Femto Forum said via e-mail. Also, this summer Japanese operator NTT Docomo, which has already rolled out 3G femtocells, became the first operator to commit to deploying LTE femtocells, he said. NTT Docomo plans to launch commercial LTE services in December using data terminals, and will add femtocells next year, at the earliest.

Another 21 operators are expected to have launched commercial LTE services by the end of the year, according to the Global Mobile Suppliers Association (GSA).

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