We’ve covered Iuh before – it’s the 3GPP standardised interface between femtocells and the gateways in mobile operators’ core networks. Iuh has been the subject of concerted development activity across the industry, “plugfest” interoperability events coordinated by the Femto Forum, and a lot of operator evaluation and trials. So it’s worth a recap of why this modestly named interface is so important to the femtocell industry.
From Monoculture to Modular Ecosystem
The first thing to say is that Iuh doesn’t offer new technical capabilities above the various interfaces employed today. The differences are operational and commercial, but the implications are major.
Today, proprietary interfaces mean that an operator’s choice of gateway systems and access points is closely entwined. But the decision-making criteria for selecting gateway systems and femtocell equipment are completely different, they concern different groups inside the organisation, and the product lifecycles are different too. This is true of consumer and enterprise femtocells, and also femto-powered small cells for public space environments. So operationally, having components of a femtocell solution working to a universal standard is much more efficient for planning, for vendor selection and for deployment.
Operators routinely work with manufacturing partners to develop home and enterprise broadband equipment adapted specifically to different market segments, and also femto-powered small cells for various public space environments. No single model fits all segments and often a variety of vendors with different strengths are selected. At the same time, femtocells have become progressively smaller and costs have reduced, opening the door to a diverse range of femto integrated devices and a much wider range of manufacturers incorporating femto capabilities. Before Iuh, the choice of gateway severely restricted the choice of femtocell models and vendors. Iuh liberates an open commercial model with an unlimited choice of femtocell equipment from an unlimited choice of vendors.
Inevitably it’s not quite as straightforward as I’ve implied – there are additional considerations around management systems for example. But for most femtocells deployed today, the upgrade to Iuh will be a simple software update invisible to users.
What are your thoughts on the market impact of Iuh? Leave a comment below and let me know.