LONDON NXP Semiconductors has joined the Femto Forum, only the second mainstream silicon supplier to join the industry body promoting femtocell technology and deployment.
To date, picoChip has been the principal and founding silicon company participating in the effort.
The move comes as the industry association for the home base station market kick-starts an initiative designed to harmonize the integration of femtocells into mobile core networks.
The Forum said that the growing interest in femto technology has fostered an environment in which there are many different, and sometimes proprietary, methods of integrating many different types of femtocell. And while this is not holding up the commercial deployment of femtocells, the initiative aims unite these different approaches in the longer term and set the stage for the development of future standards.
At last count, the Forum identified 15 different femtocell architectures, which span all air interfaces including CDMA, GSM, WCDMA, and WiMax.
To streamline these different femtocell integration methods, the group has already created a reference architecture and agreed on a set of criteria based on operator requirements, including scalability and multi-vendor support. The group will work on developing a consensus approach at its next plenary meeting in March.
The effort is boosted by several other major equipment suppliers and network operators from around the world joining the Forum, bringing the total number involved to 58, from a handful of startups at its launch in July last year.
Those who said Wednesday (Jan. 30) that they will also participate in the effort include Ericsson, Cisco, session border controller specialist Acme Packet, Samsung, AudioCodes, Genband Inc. and Huawei Technologies. Additional operators include Vodafone, Softbank, BT Group, Cellcom Israel Ltd, mobilkom austria AG and Telecom Italia.
Cisco flagged its interest in the home base stations business last week when it announced a strategic investment in ip.access Ltd.
For Ericsson, membership in the Forum does not change its position on 3G femtocells. The infrastructure giant maintains that it will have a 3G femtocell product ready in 2009, which is when it believes the market will be ready. Ericsson has a GSM femtocell integrated into a home gateway, which also includes WiFi access, a home router, and a DSL modem, but this product has not yet been commercially deployed.
"Femtocells have got off to a flying start and more deployments will take place in the near future but it is crucial that all the players in the market begin to plan together for the longer term", said Simon saunders, chairman of the Femto Forum.
"Operators have been vocal about their desire for a more unified approach to femtocell network integration as the scale of deployments increases. This programme represents the first time the femtocell community has come together to forge a future technology path through consensus," added Saunders.