Three major mobile communication groups have teamed up to create the world's first standard for the development and deployment of femtocells.
The new standard was developed following 12 months of close co-operation between 3GPP, the Femto Forum and the Broadband Forum. It should pave the way for large-scale production of standardised femtocells, and enable interoperability between different vendors' access points and femto gateways.
The standard forms part of 3GPP's Release 8 and is interdependent with Broadband Forum's extensions to its Technical Report 069 (TR-069).
"In just 12 months we've gone from initial discussions to publication of the world's first femtocell standard," said Adrian Scrase, project co-ordination group secretary at 3GPP.
"Operators can now deploy femtocells in the knowledge that their vendors are working to the 3GPP standard. Considerable effort was expended in 2008 with 3GPP meeting a very demanding schedule for the availability of 3GPP approved specifications."
The publication covers four main areas: network architecture; radio and interference aspects; security and femtocell management; and provisioning.
The crucial interface between potentially millions of femtocells and gateways in the network core, known as Iuh, has been designed to reuse existing 3GPP UMTS protocols and extend them to support the needs of high-volume femtocell deployments.
"All technologies require standards in order to make the transition from niche application to wide-scale adoption," said George Dobrowski, chairman of the Broadband Forum.
"By employing and extending best-of-breed standards, such as TR-069 for management of the Femto Access Point as part of the home network, this new femtocell standard has the best possible chance of succeeding. We are pleased to have collaborated on this new converged service with 3GPP and the Femto Forum."
As part of the process the Broadband Forum's TR-069 management protocol, which is already used to help manage, maintain and control fixed broadband networks and set-top boxes, has been extended to incorporate a new data model for femtocells. These new protocols were developed jointly by members of the Femto Forum and Broadband Forum, and published as Technical Report 196.
The standard also uses a combination of security measures including Internet Key Exchange v2 and IPsec protocols to authenticate the operator and subscriber, and then guarantee the privacy of the data exchanged.
"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," said Simon Saunders, chairman of the Femto Forum.
"This new standard is crucial in turning the many femtocell operator trials taking place around the world into mass market commercial deployments."
3GPP said that work is already underway to further incorporate femtocell technology in the organisation's upcoming release 9 standard, which will address next-generation Long Term Evolution femtocells and support more advanced functionality for 3G femtocells.
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