WiMAX Forum looks to femtocells to improve coverage

Femtocells will use WiMAX technology to route traffic over landline networks

Looking to improve indoor coverage for WiMAX devices, the WiMAX Forum is partnering with the Femto Forum to create a femtocell that routes WiMAX signals over landlines.

The two industry groups dedicated to promoting WiMAX and femtocells respectively, said Wednesday that they would work together to make a WiMAX femtocell that "will address topics such as end-to-end QoS, provisioning, network entry and authentication, power optimization and mobility management." The forums also say that the new WiMAX femtocell specifications will support emergency services, location-based services and "lawful intercept."

Femto Forum spokesman Nick Dillon says that the new femtocells will be designed to connect WiMAX devices to a fixed DSL or cable connection, thus providing improved indoor coverage and taking some of the traffic load off of WiMAX networks.

Typically, femtocells have been designed as small cellular access points that route nearby wireless voice traffic through preexisting broadband connections. In this way, femtocells can provide VoIP for wireless handsets that can both improve call quality and save money by letting users make calls without using up their cell minutes. Dillon says the WiMAX femtocells will not act as cellular backhaul carriers and will not transmit cellular signals over WiMAX networks, as "the purpose of the WiMAX femtocell is to take traffic off the macro network rather than put more on there."

The Femto Forum's partnership with the WiMAX Forum is just the latest of its efforts to promote the widespread deployment of femtocells. Upon its inception in 2007, the forum created working groups to promote a unified regulatory framework for femtocells; to create standardized architectures and interfaces that will guarantee network interoperability; and to examine how to avoid potential interference between nearby or outdoor femtocells. Since its founding, the group has added tech industry heavyweights to its roster such as Motorola, NEC, Alcatel-Lucent, Toshiba and Qualcomm.

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