The UMA Company
"Kineto grew up creating an identity and has traded as "The UMA Company" for some years, but is moving to become a Femtocell Gateway company. We've taken the experience learned from UMA deployments and adapted it, this has given us a heavily featured product out of the gate" said Keith, speaking to me at Femtocell World Summit.
"Our initial approach to femtocells started using UMA as the underlying technology, and we proposed this architecture via the Femto Forum and 3GPP. Whilst some aspects of our solution were adopted, Kineto's gateway product has been adapted and will match the now agreed upon 3GPP standards."
Addressing three markets
Kineto are now repositioned so they can address three separate markets:
- UMA Gateways (known as UNCs)
- Femtocell Gateways
- VoLGA (using UMA technology to deliver Voice over LTE)
These are multiple different stovepipes of application areas, which share the same technology foundations.
A resurgence in UMA?
Kineto have always been very positive about the potential of UMA. With continued support from large networks such as Orange and T-Mobile USA, there are now a lot of new terminals coming to market. They've seen resurgence in interest for UMA in recent months. Keith gave two reasons for this:
- Femtocells are a big step and risk. Operators continue to look at alternatives, and Kineto have seen interest in Eastern Europe, Middle East and APAC.
- Some operators don't yet have enough (or indeed, any) 3G spectrum to make 3G femtocells viable.
Many trials of their Femtocell Gateway
Kineto's partner for femtocell gateway trials has been NEC, who also integrate this with Ubiquisys femtocells.
To date, their trials have mainly been in Europe with a few outside. The gateway is a mature, stable product and any technical problems identified during the customer trials have been solved - the next step is to look at how easy it will be to integrate with operator's billing and operational systems.
Kineto will have Iuh compliance by the end of 2009, ready for the Femto Forum's "plugfest" scheduled for end of Q1 2010. They are finding that operators aren't waiting for standards to be fully implemented before launching. They know that standards based software will be available soon and can be rolled out using software upgrades, which is good enough to meet their goals.
T-Mobile has been very vocal about the need for a transitional solution to provide voice for LTE. VoLGA provides a similar solution to UMA, supporting both voice and SMS from the existing 2G/3G core networks, but running on LTE rather than WiFi. The VoLGA Forum has published a draft specification to achieve this which is available from their website.
"Operators want to get to LTE as soon aspossible, but recognize that they won't be ready with a full IMS solution in time" said Keith. "A wide range of aspects need to be addressed ranging from roaming/interworking with other networks, handsets, service continuity etc. They will eventually transform to IMS, but this approach allows operators to postpone their investment in and transformation to a full IMS core network which may take five years or more."
"Many existing services need both voice and SMS - it is surprising how much SMS continues to be used for back-end systems, such as reconfiguring handsets and data dongles."
"VoLGA allows operators to take a gradual step to provide LTE capability, then move across to IMS in due course."
Many of the VoLGA technical standards are already worked out, but roaming is still being debated in the VoLGA forum. One option is for the visited network simply to provide a data pipe back to the home network, where services are delivered - matching the way in which UMA WiFi works today. This would reduce the potential for roaming voice revenues, today currently very profitable, but under severe pressure from regulators and competitors.
It seems to me that Kineto Wireless continue to be strong advocates of UMA technology - they clearly have a strong lead in this field - but are also quietly providing stable product in the femto gateway market which is sold via NEC.
We'll have to see how the balance of these three market segments develops under Kineto's relatively new CEO, Jeff Brown, who joined from RadioFrame last June.