ThinkFemtocell Interview with Andy Odgers, CEO of Quortus – Small core network for femtocells

Andy OdgersQuortus is a small software company with a unique product. They supply a complete 2G/3G core network that’s so small it can even run inside a femtocell. We asked Andy Odgers, CEO and founder, how this has come about, what use cases this approach has, and what he might develop in the future.

 

Tell us about your background in mobile network software

I was one of the three founders of Zynetix in 2003, and led the technical side. We developed a complete GSM softswitch, adding support for roaming and CAMEL (the Intelligent Network interface). The system connected through a mobile operator as a hub, providing local self-contained GSM networks onboard cruise liners and the like.

We sold the business in 2007 and it is currently owned by  Globe Wireless who continue offering the maritime GSM service.

Having been involved closely with that original technology , I started afresh with my new startup Quortus in 2009 to developa second generation platform for 3G.

What is the scope and scale of Quortus software?

We offer a software product combining 2G GSM, 3G and most recently 4G core networks with all the compliant standard interfaces. We support GSM, 3G/UMTS and LTE basestations and externally communicate with other networks for roaming using the MAP protocol.

Whilst we do have most of the functionality you’d expect to find in a full size MSC handling 100,000’s of users,  we’d expect our system to be used for perhaps at most a few thousand customers at the network-edge.

The software can run on any common processor and runs on normal Linux operating systems. We’ve demonstrated it integrated onboard a femtocell. We’ve also ported it to run onboard a standard Cisco router. We’ve worked very closely with ip.access and integrate with their GSM and 3G systems natively.

We typically sell through system integrators who combine our product with other components or specially developed systems to meet specific needs. These include government, remote locations or corporate enterprises.

We also support GSM of course. Some of the non-maritime Zynetix customers chose to switch across to our solution when Globe focused more on the maritime business.

Is this all standard compliant?

We’ve also been at the forefront of development of the 3GPP femtocell Iu-h interface, which we have thoroughly tested with both ip.access and Ubiquisys 3G femtocells.

More recently we’ve been working on the 4G core network, the Evolved Packet Core, and have demonstrated this working with live Alcatel-Lucent eNodeB basestations, using the 3GPP S1 interface standard.

Our architecture design is radio agnostic and deliberately pushes intelligence and functionality out to the network edge, which also provides a lot of scalability.

Where would this capability best be used?

There are several cases where femtocells operate at the edge of the network, or in a special local environment. Cruise ships and maritime use is a good example, where local calls can be handled onboard both between mobile phones and wired/desk numbers. Remote outposts such as small rural villages, the Australian outback, research camps or remote islands are also good examples.

While data traffic tends not to be mobile-to-mobile, some may be served locally or cached.

Can more be done at the edge of the network?

In the long term, we see every endpoint becoming addressable using the SIP protocol and providing the same behaviour – whether it’s connected through copper wire, Wi-Fi, LTE or GSM. The conversion will be done at the edge and traffic routed from their using SIP.

This is similar to the approach that Softbank Mobile have used, converting the mobile traffic into a SIP call at the earliest opportunity.

While at-the-edge functionality may be applicable in the urban and macrocell environment, it’s ideal for locations which operate “in their own bubble”. These are typically either remote/rural outposts or enterprise situations.

Who do you see as your competitors?

The main point is that we do not see ourselves competing with the large core network vendors – the likes of Starent (now part of Cisco), Nokia-Siemens Networks or Huawei.

Nor do we compete with the protocol stack vendors, such as Aricent. Their target market is the equipment vendors rather than the end customer/system integrators.

Our product is designed for much smaller, point solutions. With the scope of functionality we offer today, we don’t see any direct competitors for this niche.

What’s your next project?

As a small, but highly efficiency, software team, we’ll continue to work through System Integrators. The focus will remain on creating and supporting high quality reusable functionality.

We’ve just joined the Femto Forum and are looking at opportunities to exploit the new OneAPI application interface.

Our core network product has recently been complemented by a full standalone RNC (3G Radio Network Controller) with compliant Iucs, Iups interfaces, which can support a traditional macrocell basestation. This could be incorporated onboard a small NodeB and opens up a host of other possibilities.

In addition to several other exciting projects, we’ll be continuing to develop and enhance our LTE core network solution as that technology continues to evolve.

Quortus Website

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