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Cisco Femtocell Solution

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Reduce Costs, Improve Coverage and Convenience


The mobility market is contending with unprecedented demands on mobile networks. The Cisco ® Femtocell Solution helps meet this demand cost effectively, while creating a bridge to enabling future 4G services. This solution is an efficient way to maintain mobility, extend indoor coverage, and raise data throughput. The results are higher overall customer satisfaction, new revenue-generating services, and lower capital and operational costs.
Mobile operators can deliver reliable, high-quality indoor mobile coverage cost-effectively with the Cisco Femtocell Solution. Cisco Femtocell is an end-to-end auto-provisioning system for robust security, superior scalability, and fast time to market. The Cisco solution uses existing 3G handsets to provide improved voice and data coverage at home. This flexible system is designed to grow as network needs grow.
Cisco offers more than products, we offer a turnkey solution. We have a dedicated Femtocell Services team that is experienced in delivering large commercial femtocell solutions, and that understands femtocell end-to-end. To help service providers deploy the solution efficiently and successfully, Cisco offers professional services for custom design, implementation, integration, and support of the femtocell network. With this approach, Cisco is in a unique position to help operators go to market quickly with new and enhanced femtocell services.

Solution Overview

This solution overview will discuss the challenges that service providers face when scaling high-speed indoor mobile services and will describe how femtocell technology can enable new services, cost-effective and flexible coverage, and improved customer experiences. It then outlines the unique capabilities of the products and services that make up the end-to-end Cisco Femtocell Solution.


The mobile Internet is a rapidly growing market for multimedia services delivered to mobile devices. Mobile Internet growth is fostered by a rapid proliferation of IP-enabled multimedia devices with easy-to-use interfaces; increasing mobile broadband capacity; unlimited-use bundled price packages; and new multimedia services such as video, collaboration, and cloud services. Because of this convergence of factors, global mobile data traffic is more than doubling annually and is projected to reach 3.6 exabytes per month by 2014, according to the 2010 Cisco Visual Networking Index (Figure 1). As a result, mobile operators are facing unprecedented challenges and opportunities.

Figure 1. Data Traffic Forecast

An additional challenge is delivering reliable and high-speed indoor mobile services. Two primary factors are related to this challenge: economics and physics. Adding macro cell towers for improved coverage and capacity is a significant capital and operational expense. For mobile data in particular, revenue does not scale linearly with the growth in consumption that requires massive backhaul capacity from the towers (Figure 2). To guarantee healthy business results, operators need to find ways to dramatically lower the cost per delivered bit.

Figure 2. Revenue and Traffic Decouple

Moreover, to guarantee high-speed data indoors, the radio signal must be delivered with high quality. Delivering high quality indoors from an outdoor antenna uses more power and spectrum resources than from an indoor antenna because of the propagation loss caused as signals pass through walls and other building structures. In order to penetrate all walls, operators would have to increase signal power, which starts to cause interference between macro cell towers.
Operators need to efficiently increase capacity to accommodate the enormous growth in mobile Internet traffic and to increase network intelligence and performance to personalize and dynamically deliver new multimedia services into the home. New technologies and business models are emerging to help provide answers. Femtocell provides a solution that delivers high-bandwidth applications to indoor locations from an indoor location, allowing the growth in bandwidth demand to be satisfied at dramatically lower costs, while improving mobility and coverage.

Mobile Operator Benefits

Femtocell delivers its advantage by originating the mobile signal indoors, overcoming the crucial signal-loss ratio from outdoor to indoor and reducing the distance traveled between the base station and the end-user device. At the same time, the femtocell architecture uses the residential broadband connection to backhaul all mobile traffic from the femtocell to the mobile core network, offloading the cellular network. This advantage becomes increasingly important with the growth in bandwidth-hungry mobile data services such as streaming. Additional cost reductions can be expected as fewer new macro cell towers are required to meet growing bandwidth demand, reducing costs related to new equipment, site acquisition or leasing, and power consumption.
The superior voice and data quality of femtocell mobile services alone can result in more satisfied customers, reducing customer turnover and incentive to seek multiple service providers. But femtocells also offer the possibility of defining new services that will be only available when the users are located under the femtocell home coverage. These new services rely on information provided by the femtocell itself, such as location, presence, and context. And this is just the beginning. As femtocell standards are finalized, standardized interfaces will allow application developers to create a host of new personalized applications that can take advantage of the unique attributes of femtocell. Two types of new services have been identified by the Femto Forum:

Femtozone services: These correspond to standard mobile data/voice services but are triggered when the phone comes in range of the femtocell. Some examples are:

– Automatic profile switch when entering the home (for example, moving from business to personal services)

– Short Message Service (SMS) alert when a family member comes home

– Automatic upload/download of content when getting home (for example, getting programmed podcast downloaded to mobile handsets or uploading the latest pictures)

Connected home service: These services are linked to "local breakout" capabilities, which will enable the femtocell system to locally route traffic within the home local network. This brings two additional benefits. First, it allows traffic offload from the mobile core network. Secondly, the mobile handset can then become a true component of the mobile home network, as described in the Connected Home standards (for example, a media player or media server as defined by Digital Living Network Alliance Universal Plug and Play [DLNA/UPnP]). Some examples of connected home services are:

– Backing up mobile hosted content (music, pictures) to the home PC or hard drive

– Playing videos/slide shows from the phone to another device on the home network

– Transforming the phone into a remote control for other devices on the network

In summary, femtocells not only improve the user experience for existing mobile voice and data services in the home but can also enable compelling new services. Service providers stand to benefit from increased adoption of femtocells, leading to new revenue streams and greater cost savings from macro network offload.

Customer Benefits

As we have seen, the case for femtocell is not simply to improve coverage in the home, although that is one important advantage. Mobile subscribers use their mobile device in the home more than they do in any other location. With this shift in how mobile phones are used, subscribers are requesting improved service capabilities delivered while they are at home. Cisco has found that mobile subscribers are especially interested in help in four primary areas:

Increased coverage and voice quality: As consumers use their mobile devices more at home, they want to be sure that they have coverage throughout their entire home. Mobile devices use radio signals to communicate with the cellular network, and many consumers have spaces in their homes where they do not get a signal from the cellular network, based purely on the physics of radio waves. With femtocell, subscribers increase the signal strength throughout their home dramatically, resulting in improved coverage. An added benefit is that they experience excellent voice quality and call clarity. With the mobile device so close to the femtocell, there is no interference with the radio signal. This lack of interference translates to a higher signal strength and clear voice quality.

Increased data speeds: The vast majority of mobile subscribers also have broadband Internet access in the home. Consumers are relying more and more on their mobile devices for Internet access, instead of their computers, which are connected to broadband Internet. Since consumers are using their mobile devices to a greater extent, they would like to see data speeds on their mobile devices as fast as the speeds provided by home broadband Internet access. Consumers will also increasingly want to take advantage of devices with embedded 3G transmitters such as Kindle and iPad. Coverage at home will make these devices more universal and easier to use. By providing customers with their own, personalized femtocell base station, operators are able to support data throughput speeds on mobile devices that rival the data throughput speeds on home computers.

Innovative service plans: Consumers also want the ability to sign up for service plans that provide predictable costs for data and voice usage in the home. A femtocell solution allows operators to offer service plans where home customers can increase device usage without worrying about per minute usage fees. And with femtocell, a multitude of innovative new femtozone and connected home services will become available.

Increased battery life: As mobile subscribers increase the usage of their devices, they increase the rate at which their batteries drain. With a femtocell solution, the distance from the mobile device to the network is measured in meters/feet, not kilometers/miles. In addition, since the femtocell is inside the home, the mobile device does not have to increase its transmit power in order to allow the radio signal to pass through the outer wall of the home. The femtocell also enables a user in the home to experience high speed downloads and web browsing in the 3G mode without requiring the user to enable the Wi-Fi feature of the phone. All these result in improved battery life.

Cisco Femtocell Solution

The Cisco Femtocell Solution is an end-to-end system, complete with professional services, for robust security, superior scalability, and fast time to market. It is an integrated solution that extends from the Cisco Connected Home to the intelligent IP Next-Generation Network (IP NGN) core. The Cisco Femtocell Solution uses existing 3G handsets to provide improved mobile voice and data coverage indoors. This flexible auto-provisioning system is designed to grow as network needs grow and is extensible to other air interfaces, including Long Term Evolution (LTE). Cisco is an experienced, proven, and trusted partner in delivering the largest commercial femtocell deployments available today. Cisco is also an active participant in all the primary organizations developing standards and technical requirements for femtocell, including the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), the Femto Forum, and the Broadband Forum. As standards are finalized, they are incorporated into the Cisco Femtocell Solution.
The primary elements of the Cisco Femtocell Solution, depicted in Figure 3, are:

• Cisco 3G Femtocell

• Cisco Femtocell Gateway

• Cisco Femtocell Management and Provisioning Systems

Figure 3. Cisco Femtocell End-to-End Solution

Cisco 3G Femtocell

The Cisco 3G Femtocell (Figure 4) is an in-building mini cell tower designed for ease of use by the end-user customer. It carries the 3G signal inside a home or office, providing cellular voice and data service for up to four simultaneous callers within a coverage area of up to 5000 square feet. It connects to the network via a cable or DSL network, so traffic can be offloaded onto the fixed broadband network. The Cisco 3G Femtocell runs in licensed spectrum and is fully managed by the operator, so the network is secure and controlled. The Cisco 3G Femtocell plays the Home Node B (HNB) role in the network as defined by the 3GPP Release 8 femtocell architecture. The Cisco 3G Femtocell is managed by the Cisco Broadband Access Center which functions as a standard-based TR-069 Auto-Configuration Server (ACS). The TR-069 management interface is provided by the Remote Management Module (RMM) within the femtocell.

Figure 4. Cisco 3G Femtocell

The Cisco 3G Femtocell is optimized for low-cost, low-capacity 3G processing for IP-based backhaul. The Cisco Femtocell offers the following advantages:

• Enhanced 3G radio performance, including transparent integration with 2G. Optimized use of radio resources to improve user experience, maximize capacity under diverse operating conditions, provide optimal cell phone battery life, and minimize impact on the core network.

• Standards-based, zero-touch provisioning to simplify and accelerate deployment and for plug'n'play end-user convenience.

• Support for four simultaneous calls in 200 kbps of available bandwidth through implementation of multiplexing on the Real Time Protocol (RTP) link over a standard IPsec tunnel.

• Ease of integration into a variety of home network setups, with installation either behind a home gateway or behind a modem, and interoperation with any standard 3G phone.

• Architected to enable rich media applications for a powerful end-user experience through integration with the mobile core and IP NGN backend.

• Self-optimization tied to backend network intelligence for easily managing millions of devices so they do not cause interference with neighboring femtocells, picocells, and macro cell towers.

• Optimized use of radio spectrum by handling access control for authorized handsets directly at the femtocell and by negotiating appropriate rejection procedures with the femtocell for unauthorized handsets.

• User-friendly LEDs to indicate activation and operational status.

• Optional GPS module to provide femtocell location verification for spectrum or e911 requirements.

In addition, the Cisco 3G Femtocell is capable of automatic discovery of macro neighbors for hand-out purposes. The femtocell can automatically manage the macro neighbor list by doing a periodic rescan of its radio environment.

Femtocell Gateway

The femtocell gateway provides high-capacity, intelligent home node B gateway (HNB-GW) functionality as specified in 3GPP Release 8. The femtocell gateway aggregates femtocell traffic into a single Iu Packet Switched (Iu-ps) or Circuit Switched (Iu-cs) interface to the mobile core network. Cisco has two carrier-grade platforms that can provide HNB-GW functionality, so the network can be right-sized to meet current network architectures along with growth, complexity, and scaling requirements.
The Cisco femtocell gateways provide the following high-level functionality:

Mobile network integration: Supports standard Iu-cs and Iu-ps interfaces over IP or ATM.

Authentication and security: All bearer traffic carried over a public IP broadband connection to and from the Cisco 3G Femtocell is protected through a security gateway. Cisco provides both a standalone and an integrated security gateway, and both support the security gateway functionality defined by 3GPP and the Femto Forum. The gateway can optionally provide stateful firewall and denial-of-service (DoS) protection.

Redundancy: Provides both hardware and software mechanisms for active/standby processes, including line card, processor blade, and switch fabric redundancy; context replication; failure detection; recovery procedures; and message services.

Emergency services: Supports e911 flows, such as lookup of femtocell location.

Cisco Femtocell Management and Provisioning Systems

The Cisco Femtocell Solution has been specifically designed to meet management requirements for successful femtocell deployment, including fault management, performance management, and achieving true zero-touch provisioning. Cisco also provides custom integration with existing operational support system (OSS) and network management system (NMS) networks, a must for managing ongoing operational costs. The Cisco Femtocell Solution integrates these management and provisioning components into our end-to-end architecture for transparent performance:

Cisco Broadband Access Center (BAC) (see Figure 5) is a distributed and scalable application that automates the tasks of provisioning and managing customer premises equipment (CPE) on a mass scale. The Cisco BAC is a proven platform, with deployments in over 150 service provider networks over the past decade. It enables secure provisioning and CPE management by using the TR-069 specification for CPE WAN Management Protocol (CWMP) defined by the Broadband Forum. Cisco BAC 3.5 builds on the core BAC architecture and provides functions specific to femtocell management. The application scales to support networks of virtually any size and offers high availability, made possible by its distributed architecture with centralized management.

Figure 5. Cisco Broadband Access Center

Cisco Femtocell Provisioning Gateway (FPG) provides a platform for femtocell activation workflows and interfaces to the service provider OSS. The standard workflows and interfaces are readily customizable to accommodate any unique operator systems. The FPG provides the OSS with an Extensible Markup Language (XML)-based interface to provision and activate femtocells as well as manage femtocells by accessing their live data. The FPG manages messaging for femtocell provisioning, including registration, activation, shutdown, tolerance failure, whitelisting, status changes, tampering notification, location updates, and service enabling. Customer service representatives can see live information about the customer's femtocell for diagnosing issues from within their existing customer support systems and can make changes such as editing the access control list and suspending the femtocell remotely. The FPG contains the workflow engine which is responsible for allocating unique and region-specific radio parameters, billing identifiers, and over-the-air identifiers. The FPG also assigns newly registered femtocells to the appropriate regional security and femtocell gateways.

The Cisco Femtocell Remote Management Module (RMM) resides within the Cisco 3G Femtocell and provides the remote management interface for provisioning and remote troubleshooting. The RMM is responsible for initiating TR-069 sessions with an autoconfiguration server such as the Cisco BAC. The RMM enables automated activation of a new femtocell, changing femtocell configuration, reporting on status/performance, and troubleshooting the femtocell.

Cisco Femtocell RAN Manager (FRM) provides for storage and management of the Remote Access Network (RAN) data needed for activation of the femtocells. The FRM fulfills unique provisioning workflow requirements for a self-install femtocell implementation. The FRM is a relational database and is accessed by FPG during fulfillment of certain OSS functions, such as assignment of region-specific or unique RAN settings, selection of the appropriate femtocell gateway, management of billing identifiers based on regional plans, and whitelist updates on any number of femtocells when a subscriber cell phone (with SIM card) is replaced. The FRM offloads I/O-intensive provisioning transactions from the BAC hardware to allow for an optimal high-volume femtocell provisioning platform. The FRM also enables fast bulk updates of femtocells during maintenance tasks which may involve large-scale re-configuration due to changes in the radio network, billing plans or other pre-planned activities.

Cisco Femtocell Element Management (EMS) is an integrated platform for monitoring all back-end servers that are part of the Cisco Femtocell Solution. It is an industry-leading network management solution with full fault, configuration, administration, performance, and security (FCAPS) functionality. It manages alarms, performance indicators and configuration benchmarking. The EMS has a simple and intuitive GUI to manage and control all elements of the Cisco Femtocell RAN and is built on a client/server model to allow remote network management. The EMS has standardized Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) and Common Object Request Broker Architecture (CORBA) interfaces for OSS integration and multiple security levels for network management administration. The EMS also integrates with back office systems for ease of billing. These features combine to offer exceptional cost savings for network operations.

Cisco Services

The Cisco Femtocell Solution is delivered by Cisco Services, an organization with over three decades of experience delivering millions of IP-based CPE devices into the home with transparent integration into current networks. Cisco Services professionals have superior expertise implementing large commercial femtocell deployments and provide world-class service integration. Cisco Femtocell Services can be bundled in order to provide the desired outcome, and encompass the following:

• Architecture and planning services to define the desired solution as a whole.

• Software integration services such as registration flows, activation notifications, whitelist management, SAI updates, GPS data updates, service suspension, live AP status data for CSR UIs, querying of provisioning status data, and overrides.

• Software customization services such as unique location verification flows, billing plan handling requirements, and OSS notification requirements.

• Network integration services.

• Solution-level testing, interoperability testing, regression testing on new releases, and taking the solution through operator-specific test labs.

• Deployment services to help install and run the system on day one.

• Operations support to help run the system on day one, including training internal staff for hand off, and providing ongoing support.

With specialized tools, knowledge, methodologies, best practices, and a collaborative delivery model that combines Cisco's expertise with our partners' and customers' capabilities, Cisco Services achieve superior results. Cisco helps service providers to mitigate risk, accelerate time to market for new revenue-generating services, lower total cost of ownership, maximize the value of investments, and improve the customer experience through service assurance.

Why Cisco?

Cisco is the worldwide leader in networking technologies and an experienced, proven, and trusted partner in delivering large-scale commercial femtocell solutions. As RAN networks continue to move towards IP, Cisco IP expertise can become the foundation for success. Cisco is uniquely positioned to address specific customer needs quickly and adjust the solution to meet the needs of mobile operators.
Cisco can help service providers cost-effectively deploy a network extension from existing intelligent network infrastructure to deliver femtocell services today and prepare for the next generation of revenue-generating femtozone and Connected Home services. Cisco is dedicated to industry standards, and actively participates in the key industry bodies that are defining the femtocell standards, including 3GPP, the Femto Forum, DLNA, and the Broadband Forum. We contribute recommendations, incorporate standards compliance into our development cycles, and support new releases as they are defined.


The Cisco Femtocell Solution accelerates the mobile Internet and gives service providers a cost-effective means to extend high-performance, mobile indoor coverage to millions of subscribers, quickly and efficiently. Zero-touch provisioning drastically reduces the time and cost of delivering new services, and the use of femtocells lowers the operating expenses associated with RAN backhaul. End customers can enjoy the connected life at home with reliable high-speed access to all their favorite applications, from a variety of devices throughout the home. Cisco's solution uses best-in-class technologies to enable fully integrated security, interference management, QoS, and performance management that extend from the femtocell at home to the IP NGN core.

For More Information

For more information about the Cisco Femtocell Solution, visit or contact your local Cisco account representative.