Femto Forum completes world’s first femtocell plugfest

The Femto Forum, the independent industry and operator association that supports femtocell deployment worldwide, has announced it has completed the world’s first femtocell plugfest.

The plugfest process, which extended over many months and culminated in the test event itself, was organised in cooperation with the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) and had widespread vendor support with over twenty companies participating, including vendors of network equipment and femtocells as well as software and hardware components.

The companies involved were Ablaze Wireless, Acme Packet, Airvana, Alcatel-Lucent Telecom, Alpha Networks, Askey Computer Corporation, C&S Microwave, Cisco Systems, Contela, Continuous Computing, Genband, Huawei, IntelliNet Technologies, ip.access, Kineto Wireless, NEC, Node-H, Nokia Siemens Networks, picoChip, Technicolor, TRaC Global and Ubiquisys.

The primary objective of the plugfest, organised as an ETSI Plugtests interoperability testing event, was to demonstrate the effectiveness of the 3GPP femtocell standards in supporting interoperability between femtocell access points and network equipment from different vendors. This helps ensure that there is consistent interpretation of the standard.

Standardised femtocells provide operators and consumers with a richer ecosystem of femtocell products, as well as facilitating economies of scale.

“The history of cellular is littered with companies that had extremely promising proprietary technologies but failed to achieve widespread adoption. Put simply, the mobile operator community does not embrace non-standardised technologies. The development of the 3GPP femtocell standard was momentous, but verification of the standard is required to enable mass market deployment. Through the plugfest we are now a vital step closer to that target,” said Simon Saunders, chairman of the Femto Forum.

Added Natasha Tamaskar, chair of the Femto Forum’s IOT Initiative: “The fact that the plugfest was carried out so quickly after the completion of the 3GPP standard is testament to the industry’s support for standardized femtocell access points and network equipment. This process will ultimately allow operators to multisource the technology as they do with mobile handsets today. This plugfest represents a crucial step towards the Femto Forum’s vision of a fully open interoperable femtocell ecosystem.”

Adrian Scrase, head of ETSI’s Mobile Competence Centre, remarked: “I’m delighted that the Femto Forum partnered with ETSI for this significant event. The availability of the 3GPP Home NodeB (femtocell) specifications has encouraged the development of products that this interoperability event has been able to test. The results will not only provide confidence to the participating companies, they bring vital feedback to the standardisation process. The event is therefore a critical part of the route to mass-market success for standardised femtocell solutions for 3GPP-based mobile networks.”

Interoperability tests were conducted between femtocell network gateways, security gateways, femtocell access points and chipsets to verify 3GPP’s Iuh interface as defined in the Release 8 series of specifications. The plugfest also tested the IPsec/IKEv2 security protocols which allow femtocells to communicate over the public Internet to operators’ core networks in a highly secure manner. 3GPP’s Release 8 femtocell standard was published in April 2009, and defines the secure interface between femtocell access points and femtocell gateways in the core network.

TRaC Global, which specializes in testing, regulatory and compliance services, coordinated the plugfest for the Femto Forum.

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