The 3rd Generation Partnership Project today published the initial standard for UMTS femtocells, choosing a simplified architecture and highly-utilized protocols that easily integrate with both wireline and wireless operators’ networks. With the standard finalized, the Femto Forum believes it now has the ammunition it needs to convince operators to deploy femtocells in huge volumes.
“Our operator members have been insistent that the dozens of approaches to integrating femtocells with mobile operators’ core networks had to be filtered down to a single standard,” Femto Forum chairman Simon Saunders said in a statement. “This new standard is crucial to turning the many femtocell operator trials taking place around the world into mass-market commercial deployments.”
The 3GPP adopted as an interface protocol IUH, a variation on the IU protocols used in UMTS core networks, to carry voice traffic from the femtocell over the public Internet to the operator’s network. Essentially femtocells will speak the same language to core as the core speaks with itself. Other protocols were proposed to the Forum and the 3GPP, among them Unlicensed Mobile Access (UMA), which is used by many dual-mode WiFi networks, and Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), which is common in VoIP networks. But those solutions would require specialized gateways to mediate between the core and the femtocells themselves. On the management side, the 3GPP selected Broadband Forum protocols already widely used in wireline networks, allowing operators to tap into same authentication, provisioning and diagnostics platforms used in DSL and cable networks today.
UMTS operators have been in holding patterns around the world, waiting for a final 3GPP standard to emerge before making any commercial deployment decisions. Meanwhile several CDMA operators have moved ahead with femto deployments, unhindered by an equivalent standard for their networks. Both Verizon Wireless and Sprint have launched femto services using Samsung’s proprietary Airave technology.