GENBAND reckon they are involved in over 2/3rd of all field trials of femtocells and can publicly claim they involved in two of today’s commercial femtocell services. Who are they and what do they provide? We spoke with their product team to establish where GENBAND fit into the femtocell market and capture their views on this evolving technology.
GENBAND has grown from its formation in 1999 to a $150M turnover company, becoming the number 1 supplier of telecom gateway products worldwide. With over 800 customers (of which almost half buy something every year), they are an integral part of many mobile and fixed telephone networks. That’s impressive considering they weren’t making any revenue until 2004! They’ve grown rapidly through acquisitions of companies such as Nextpoint (which itself was a merger of Reefpoint and NexTone).
With telecommunications vendors downsizing, it makes sense for specialist areas to be consolidating into a small number of component suppliers. Several of the large vendors now buy in their gateways from GENBAND and its competitors.
GENBAND provides security gateways and media gateways which are incorporated into Femtocell Gateways. All the various system architectures for both CDMA and UMTS are supported. Its flagship G9 media gateway has some 50M ports deployed. Its S3 box can provide the security gateway terminating 500K IPsec tunnels (one per femtocell) in a single rack.
I spoke with Mehmet Balos(Chief Marketing Officer), Natasha Tamaskar(Security Product VP) and Glenn LeBrun(Gateway Product Director) about their views and activity in the femtocell market.
What’s your view of the femtocell market today?
After the initial hype stage, we are seeing significant movement in the market with over 50 operators involved in some level of trial activity. Standards are in place, thanks to a significant push by Femto Forum and several eco-systems starting to form. The main issues today are around business case outside coverage and capacity and price point of femtocells although with the next generation chipsets coming to market, we expect the pricing issues to be addressed in the near term.
The first generation femtocells continue to be standalone boxes, although integration with other devices is a natural next step to optimize cost. But today, in an evolving market, standalone boxes provide the most flexibility – operators don’t want to restrict themselves to any individual market sector.
As far as market timing, we think it will be 2012 before we see high volumes of product shipped.
What’s happening with femtocell security gateways?
Initially every large NEP (Network Equipment Provider) wanted to build their own end-to-end femtocell solution. Now we are seeing many of these large vendors coming to GENBAND for this component. Our product is proven, widely deployed and well respected in the industry. This allows other vendors to concentrate on their core competencies.
[Ed Note: A Femtocell Gateway comprises an IP security gateway and a signalling controller - GENBAND provide the security gateway component]
Who are you working with?
NEC is one of GENBAND’s key partners in Europe (along with Ubiquisys and Kineto Wireless), and through them we have been involved in several trials. We expect several further operator launch announcements in the next few months.
We also work with ZTE and other partners in APAC countries such as in China and believe we are involved in more than 60% of all femtocell market trials.
You’ll also find us present in several large CDMA femtocell deployments, although we are unable to name specific operators at this time.
What proportion of your business relates to femtocells?
Unlike some of the other companies involved in femtocells, this forms only a very small portion of our revenue stream today. However, we are committed to supporting this market and can easily scale up to deliver the multi-million sized deployments forecast ahead. Although we’ve achieved a large market share, we haven’t needed to provide any free trials, just actual deployments.
What contribution do you make to the femtocell industry development?
We have been extremely active within the Femto Forum for the past few years. Within the Forum, we have been instrumental in the formation of the IOT group (interoperability testing) and chair it within the Femto Forum. We know that many operators want to see high levels of interoperability between femtocell access points and gateways, which will drive prices down and encourage innovation.
The first proof of this industry IOT is the forthcoming “plugfest” in March 2010 which has already attracted over 20 different vendors from the industry, and we expect to see credible plug-and-play interoperability demonstrated at the event.
How do how see your gateways being deployed/evolving as femtocell numbers grow?
Our media gateway product can easily scale to support 500K femtocells (that’s over 1M concurrent voice calls/session) in a rack. We’d typically expect to see operators consolidate a small number of femtocell gateways, located near to internet connection points, geographically dispersed nationwide. We support several different deployment models ranging from edge to full co-location.
And finally, any views on Voice over LTE?
We recognise there are five main solutions being proposed, and can support all of these with our products today. Since we are already providing part of the UMA/GAN solution [for WiFi dual mode phones] with Kineto Wireless, we can easily adapt this to support the very similar VoLGA architecture.
Our products also support both OneVoice [the recently announced simplified IMS for LTE proposal by several leading operators] as well as full IMS and other models using convergence servers.
We think that some of these interim solutions may well be useful in the journey towards IMS.