LONDON The first interoperability testing of multivendor UMTS femtocell equipment is set to take place in Sophia Antipolis, France next March to validate the 3GPP femtocell standard.
"We are not releasing at this stage the names of the vendors that will participate in this first Plugfest, to be organized by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), but the companies involved will cover the whole spectrum of the femtocell area, including chip developers, system integrators, gateway and access point suppliers, with large and small companies represented," Simon Saunders, chairman of the Femto Forum, told EE Times .
The work will involve interoperability tests between femtocell network gateways, security gateways, femtocell access points and chipsets from all the key vendors to verify the 3GPP's Iuh interface as defined in release 8.
The IPsec/IKEv2 security protocols that allow femtocells to communicate over the public Internet to system operators' core networks will also be tested.
Release 8 Iuh interface standardization was completed in April 2009 and provides the interface between femtocell access points and femtocell network gateways in the core network. Equipment upgrades to meet this standard are expected to enter the market over the next six months.
"The motivation is to ensure vendors can deliver, in volume and to economies of scale the equipment needed to speed deployment of femtocells by all the network operators," said Saunders.
There are currently over twenty femtocell access point models and over a dozen network gateways on the market and the interoperability program will start to ensure they all work together harmoniously.
"Vendor interoperability is the key ingredient that will give operators the confidence to start mass deployments. Not only will this allow operators to start mixing and matching their technology providers as they do with mobile handsets today, it will also drive economies of scale to bring down the cost of the technology," Saunders said.
He noted not all equipment will or needs to be physically at the Plugfest. "There is no need for that. For example gateways can stay in the vendor's facilities as there will be links between gateways via remote access, akin to a commercial deployment."
"Similarly, although we have had tremendous support for the event from all network operators, they will not be, or need to be, at the event."
Saunders said release 9 of the 3GPP standard, which will take in LTE capabilities, is set to be frozen in December, and work is also progressing within the 3GPP2 group for CDMA versions of femtocells.
Separately, the Femto Forum has appointed Andy Germano as Vice-Chairman. He will provide U.S.-based support to the chairman on internal activities, liaison with external groups and representation of the Forum at industry events.
Germano has held senior executive positions at Verizon, Nortel and Qualcomm.
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