WiMAX Forum publishes femtocell standard

The WiMAX Forum and the Femto Forum have announced the publication of the first WiMAX femtocell standard allowing vendors to start developing standardised femtocells and associated network equipment based on the IEEE 802.16e radio interface and profiles.

The WiMAX Forum aims to start certifying compatible products in early 2011 to guarantee efficient and effective interoperability between different vendors’ access points and core network equipment.

WiMAX femtocells cost effectively enhance coverage and capacity inside buildings and in small outdoor areas as well as supporting advanced new services. The WiMAX Forum has been working with the Femto Forum since June 2009 to ensure that the entire femtocell and WiMAX ecosystems cooperate to enable the most effective possible standard and release the full potential of both technologies.

The specifications incorporate a security framework that allows WiMAX networks to support a large number of access points via standard commercial IPSec based security gateways. This phase of specifications also contains simple Self Organizing Network (SON) capabilities to allow automatic configuration of large numbers of femtocells. Future revisions will further enhance the SON capabilities to standardize automatic interference management between femtocells and macro base stations.

The standard also incorporates support for three usage models to support different deployment scenarios such as residential, enterprise and outdoor environments. The ‘Open Model’ allows the femtocell to operate like a normal WiMAX base station by allowing anyone to use the service; ‘Closed Subscriber Group (CSG) Closed’ allows a limited number of pre-allocated subscribers to use the femtocell. The ‘Closed Subscriber Group (CSG) Open’ extends the previous model to allow the subscriber to add users themselves.

“Standards are central to the success of new mobile technologies so this represents a major milestone for WiMAX femtocells. Femtocells add a powerful tool to the WiMAX arsenal by allowing operators to cost-effectively improve coverage indoors and in rural areas while also adding capacity in urban locations,” said Ron Resnick, president and chairman of the WiMAX Forum. “This standard represents the culmination of a major WiMAX Forum effort and we look forward to moving on to the next phase in early 2011 when certification of compatible equipment can begin.”

Noted Simon Saunders, chairman of the Femto Forum: “Femtocells deliver the best possible WiMAX experience; they provide exceptional indoor coverage and the optimum data experience. This standard is the key to enabling cost effective large scale deployments of WiMAX femtocells. We look forward to continuing our work with the WiMAX Forum in the future to ensure that both the technologies can evolve together.”

The standard will impact all elements of the WiMAX femtocell network including: the MS (Mobile Station), WFAP (WiMAX Femtocell Access Point), Security Gateway, Femto Gateway, SON Server, AAA Server, WFAP Management Server and other Core Service Network (CSN) functions.

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