The finalization of a standard is important. Just ask the folks trying to work through 802.11n. In that context, the femtocell industry passed a major milestone earlier this month when a standard for Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS) femtocells was finalized.
The announcement, which was made by the Femto Forum, the 3rd Generation Partnership Project and Broadband Forum, said that the spec covers network architecture, security, management and provisioning and radio and interference aspects, according to Unstrung. Femtocell rollouts to date, the piece says, have been limited and the standard should help. It suggests, however, that improvements will occur "at a limited pace" and concludes by noting that ip.access and Ubiquisys announced compliant products and that similar announcements should be expected.
Tech Watch provides more information on the ip.access femtocell, called the Oyster 3G. Interestingly, the story doesn't exactly say that the device is compliant with the new standard. Instead, it quotes the company as saying that an upgrade has made "significant process" toward that status. The other takeaway is a non-expert explanation of the standard's importance. It says that it provides plug-and-play functionality and facilitates femtocells that are easy to install, scalable and cost-effective.
It's wise to take research done by vendors that just happens to validate what they are peddling with a grain of salt. It's also wise not to simply dismiss the findings. Results that the vendor doesn't like are more likely to be discarded than changed. Thus, it is entirely possible that those that are released are legitimate. With that as a preface, this InformationWeek piece describes research from Airvana, which offers femtocell technology under the HubBub label. The piece says the vendor ran three tests each in urban, suburban and rural settings and found that throughput exceeded 2 Megabits per second (Mbps) "on a statistically reliable basis." Arivana and the writer of the story say the major selling point of femtocells is coverage. Thus, speed increases can be a powerful additional inducement to service providers and end users.
Will Franks, who lets us know what he thinks of his contribution to femtocells by the name of his site -- Femtocell Pioneer -- provides three data points on why femtocells are not just for the home. He says it is possible for businesses to put together what he refers to as "Lego bricks" of coverage that can be fitted into any space and expand or shift as needs change. He says that femtos' self-organizing nature eliminates the need for site surveys, or changes to the macro network, and that they are simple enough to be sold through existing direct and indirect channels.
Those who can still afford to attend trade shows invariably pick up a lot of useful information. That was true of femtocell shoppers visiting the recent CTIA show in Las Vegas. Femto Hub does a good job of rounding up the femtocell news from the show. On the Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) side, Airvana demonstrated HubBub, AirWalk exhibited the EdgePoint Pro, Hitachi showed products developed in partnership with Airvana and Motorola won the CTIA Emerging Technology Best in Show award for its femtocell picture frame. Airvana, Tatara, Acme Packet and Starent Networks showed their products in network scenarios. On the CDMA side of the coin, Ubiquisys, Alcatel-Lucent and Airvana displayed products.
Much of what occurs for the balance of the year will depend on whether the economy improves. The good news is that the standards process seems to be moving along nicely and, perhaps more importantly, vendors seem ready to support customers who do materialize.