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Friday, 08 February 2008 11:05

Femtocell frenzy in Barcelona

The CEO of femtocell maker Ubiquisys said last week that "The femtocell market is moving at an astonishing speed." Judging by the number of announcements pouring out ahead of next week's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, he is spot on.
The comments, from Chris Gilbert, were made at the announcement last month of a tie up between his company and cellular network infrastructure maker Nokia Siemens Networks under which the two will offer cellular operators Ubiquisys femtocells designed to interwork with Nokia-Siemens cellular network gear.

This was followed by one of the most significant femtocell announcements to date: the first commercially available 3G cellular base station designed for installation in the home, and combined with ADSL modem, router, WiFi access point and four port switch. It comes from Netgear and incorporates' Ubiquisys' ZoneGate 3G femtocell product.

Now, it seems everyone wants a piece of that action. NEC has announced a collaboration with Netgear under which the new Netgear femtocell, the DVG834GH, will be offered by NEC as a complete system comprising femtocell access point, Femtocell Gateway (which interfaces the femtocells to the overall cellular network) and access point management and provisioning system.

Not to be outdone, Nokia Siemens has announced that it will certify the DVG834GH with its femto gateway (this should not be too much of a challenge as it had a prior agreement with Ubiquisys to do just this).

A third vendor, Kineto Wireless which makes the UMA network controller, a 3GPP standards-based femtocell radio access network gateway, has also announced that it will work with Netgear to ensure that this will interwork with the DVG834GH (Netgear calls it, a Femtocell Voice Gateway which can be rather confusing as the term femto gateway is used for other components of the overall network architecture, so I'm sticking with the ugly alphanumeric).

Kineto claims to be "he key innovator and leading supplier of UMA/GAN technology," UMA/GAN technology is the 3GPP global standard for fixed-mobile convergence. It is designed to enable secure, scalable access to mobile voice, data and multimedia services over broadband IP access networks. According Kineto, "By deploying UMA/GAN technology, mobile operators can deliver a number of compelling fixed-mobile convergence services."

The most common real-world applications of UMA/GAN today are dual-mode cellular/Wi-Fi handsets and these underpin the fixed-mobile convergence offerings of France Telecom/Orange, T-Mobile US, TeliaSonera, British Telecom and Cincinnati Bell.

Hot on the heels of Netgear's DVG834GH came a similar product from Motorola, billed as the 8100 Series - Motorola Femtocell Ethernet Gateway, and the 8000 Series Femtocell Access Point. This latter contains on the 3G cellular access point and an ethernet bridge, but needs to be connected to an ADSL modem and, if WiFi is required, to a separate WiFi access point.

Motorola has not said whether, like Netgear, it has imported the core femtocell technology from one of the specialist start-ups like Ubiquisys, or whether this is home grown.

Motorola also announced a new version of its NBBS device management system, a software platform that enables operators to remotely access, configure, and troubleshoot consumer devices. The new version includes support for femtocells, and WiMAX CPE.

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