Will Franks - femtocell pioneer

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04 June 2009

Femtocells - a network planning and management nightmare?

Kevin Fitchard asks some key questions about femtocells in his article in Telephony Online. He was commenting on how femtocells might be the answer to mobile networks reaching Shannon’s Limit of available capacity. Femtocells can easily provide the capacity relief, but with millions of them deployed, wouldn’t they “create a network planning and management nightmare”?

These are the challenges that faced femtocell pioneers from day one, and the solutions are fundamental to the femtocell concept.

1. How do you make femtocells self-installable under an existing macro network deployment deployed on the same spectrum?

This is addressed by the much talked-about principle of Self-Organising Networks. In reality, this means femtocells having autonomous cognitive radio capabilities that scan the relevant spectrum and optimise a complex set of parameters to work symbiotically with the macro network. It also means femtocells continuously monitoring the spectrum to adapt to any changes, such as a macro re-plan or the installation of a femto neighbour. This ensures that femtocells remain the adaptive subsidiary partners to the dominant manually-engineered macro network.

2. How do you enable millions of plug-and-play femtocells and keep them under control once they are out there?

The principle is to make the installation easy for the consumer and manageable for the Mobile Service Provider, and to do this in very large numbers. That’s why the DSL Forum approach for management (TR069) has been widely adopted for femtocells. TR069 is a proven method used to remotely manage millions of home gateways and set-top boxes around the world.

These two functions, fundamental to the femtocell concept and proven in real deployments, effectively eliminate the risk of nightmares.