It’s official: The Femto Forum has declared its members will be using the Broadband Forum’s TR-069 popular protocol to manage femtocell devices.
Surprising no one, TR-069 was the odds-on favorite for the role, being deployed already in roughly 30 million devices that support the 2/3G service. Indeed, the Forum noted that many members had already decided to go with TR-609 for femtocell management, especially diagnostics and troubleshooting. TR-069 already supports (self)-installation, a key requirement for widespread deployment, and provisioning functions including remote diagnostics and firmware upgrades, as well as RF interference reduction; work is ongoing to add new functionality to the standard near-term.
Given its widespread installed base, choosing TR-069 may seem like a no-brainer, but it does give the Forum a little momentum as a forward-looking body and stresses its credibility and relevance (see Stepping forward with standards). After welcoming several new members to the fold, the emerging organization’s membership now runs the gamut of the major femtocell market communities, from integrators and test vendors to rural cooperatives.
Though the Forum does not set or write standards per se, it does attempt to create a consensus among members for common practices. Enshrining TR-069 may not have been a difficult sell by which to measure the negotiating powers of the Forum, but the importance of femtocell management to the overall market is quite high, reflecting vendor concerns on femtocell installation and operations that could stall deployment without robust standards. However, it should be noted that “…To the extent that vendors were already implementing TR-069, the Forum’s announcement doesn’t actually change market dynamics, nor does it even compel vendors who aren’t looking at TR-069 to move in that direction,” according to Peter Jarich, a senior analyst with Current Analysis, in a recent intelligence report.
TR-069 will help lower capex costs and simplify deployment, as well as interoperate with third-party femto services. Femto cells can be shut down centrally via TR-069 if macro-cell network interference becomes a problem. And because it’s a product of the Broadband Forum, TR-069 commands some market confidence as a proven management solution that can integrate with a number of existing management solutions from a fairly wide array of vendors.
However, as Jarich points out, some vendors may choose to support other femto management protocols in addition to TR-069; despite the impressive-sounding stat of 30 million installed devices to its credit, the standard is less than two years old and hasn’t had as much market success as was hoped for — or even as much as the Forum sometimes claims.
“More worrying, however, is the absence of any messaging on how the Forum will work with standards bodies to make TR-069 an actual standard,” Jarich continues. “When announcing progress with network integration standards, cooperation with the 3GPP and 3GPP2 was cited. The absence of any similar details on the device management front questions whether TR-069 will ever be more than a de facto standard.”
In addition, TR-069 was developed for DSL operators and may lack some of the necessary functionality (especially in terms of RF interference and planning) for femto providers, particularly cable operators and those that have already deployed non-TR-069 solutions.