Forum adopts protocol for large-scale femtocell deployments
After its definition in 2004, approximately 30 million devices now use this standard, making it robust and well proven, with full interoperability. Management and provisioning of very high volumes of femtocells has been a major concern for carriers; adopting TR-069 and being able to reuse all the proven experience of that standard will enable femtocells to be easily deployed and configured reliably, and in high volume.
Unlike traditional cellular equipment, femtocells will be deployed in high volumes and installed by the subscriber, so the provisioning and configuration must be completely automated and managed remotely by the mobile operator. The TR-069 standard has proven it allows operators to offer simple installation and provisioning; perform advanced diagnostics; and conduct remote firmware and service upgrades with millions of end devices, in an extremely cost-effective manner. Most importantly, it eliminates the need for operators to send technical personnel on-site. This practice will be unfeasible given millions of units that are set to be rolled out. The two organizations plan to continue working closely to define extensions to TR-069 to make additional femtocell capability to the standard.
Role of femtocells
"The remote management of consumer equipment like femtocell access points is a vital tool for operators to introduce new revenue-generating services and consistently provide a high level of service," said Simon Saunders, chairman, Femto Forum. "Femtocells are sophisticated pieces of telecommunications equipment, but they are also essentially consumer devices and as such they have to be simple enough to be installed and used by an average consumer. Many people have been concerned about the scalability of provisioning and management for femtocells and with this initiative, such concern is addressed.
"Femtocells represent a very different approach to mobile network architecture and therefore require a suitably different approach to network management. The similarity to fixed broadband networks is obvious so TR-069, the dominant standard for the management of broadband gateways and other consumer devices, such as STBs, VoIP devices and storage devices, is the natural choice," said George Dobrowski, chairman and president, The Broadband Forum. "With femtocells which are likely to be included in home gateways, this makes the use of a common protocol especially fitting," he added.
Ensuring criteria execution
The two bodies have been working together over recent months to ensure that the protocol will be able to meet the femtocells criteria. The TR-069 protocol standardizes secure CPE auto-configuration practices and incorporates other CPE management functions, including diagnostics and troubleshooting, performance monitoring and software/image management into a common framework. Some of the forum members have already adopted the protocol into their existing solutions, but today's agreement means it will become the femtocell industry's first de facto management standard.
In a related story, the forum also welcomes new members who are already active in the working groups. These are New Cell Inc. (D/B/A Cellcom), C&S Microwave Co. Ltd, Epitiro, Tecom Co Ltd and Pioneer Telephone Cooperative Inc. The group now has 84 members, close to 40 percent of whom are operators representing over 810 million subscribers.
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