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IP.Access dangles femtocells afore Softbank

IP.Access is to supply Softbank with its UMTS femtocell solution, as well as another major carrier. According to CEO Stephen Mallinson, the Cambridge-based vendor’s devices are ready to ship, and telecoms.com got a look at one.

The form factor is similar to essentially any other cable modem, home router, WLAN device or set-top box, but it contains a UMTS base station using a handset radio stack, as well as WLAN functionality and a reduced RNC. The device is connected straight to a DSL line.

The kit does not include any of the fancier things that have been suggested, such as IPTV, media-centre functions, or storage. However, these may well be coming – a partnership has been signed with Thomson to integrate IP.Access 3G radios into set-top boxes.

“We realise that this is only a small fraction of the boxes that will be deployed in the home,” said Mallinson. “Hence the deal with Thomson.” He estimated the current cost of the box at Euro150, although it is expected to become price-competitive with WLAN boxen once the scale of production cranks up.

Technically, IP.Access chose to go with a distributed RNC and a so-called Iu architecture, in which each node is its own RNC and communicates with a gateway in the core network over IP. The gateway, in turn, provides an ATM Iu interface to the softswitch.

Mallinson claimed that the carriers “are not ready” for a pure IMS solution, whilst Iu-B (where the femtocells communicate with a centralised RNC) has excessive latency and UMA/GAN is “very interim.” He points to Nokia Siemens.

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