The new femtocell standard covers four main areas: network architecture; radio & interference aspects (both completed last December); femtocell management / provisioning and security (finalised this month). In terms of network architecture, the crucial interface between potentially millions of femtocells and gateways in the network core has been called Iuh. This re-uses existing 3GPP UMTS protocols and extends them to support the needs of high-volume femtocell deployments.
The new standard has adopted the Broadband Forum's TR-069 management protocol which has been extended to incorporate a new data model for femtocells developed collaboratively by Femto Forum and Broadband Forum members and published by the Broadband Forum as Technical Report 196 (TR-196). TR-069 is already widely used in fixed broadband networks and in set-top boxes and will allow mobile operators to simplify deployment and enable automated remote provisioning, diagnostics-checking and software updates. The standard also uses a combination of security measures including IKEv2 (Internet Key Exchange v2) and IPsec (IP Security) protocols to authenticate the operator and subscriber and then guarantee the privacy of the data exchanged.
"In just 12 months we've gone from initial discussions to publication of the world's first femtocell standard. Operators can now deploy femtocells in the knowledge that their vendors are working to the 3GPP standard." said Adrian Scrase, the 3GPP's Project Coordination Group Secretary. "Considerable effort was expended in 2008 with 3GPP meeting a very demanding schedule for the availability of 3GPP approved specifications."
"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. This new standard is crucial in turning the many femtocell operator trials taking place around the world into mass market commercial deployments," said Simon Saunders, Chairman of the Femto Forum.
Building on this success, work is already being done to further incorporate femtocell technology in the 3GPP's release 9 standard, which will address LTE femtocells as well as support more advanced functionality for 3G femtocells. Femtocell standards are also being developed for additional air interface technologies by other industry bodies.
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