Equipment vendors, test tool vendors and companies providing test network infrastructure took part in interoperability testing of 3GPP Release 9-compliant FDD LTE small cells, hosted by the Sintesio test lab in Slovenia in June.
The primary objective of the event, known as a “Plugfest,” organized by the ETSI Centre for Testing and Interoperability and the Small Cell Forum, was to demonstrate the effectiveness of the 3GPP LTE standards in supporting interoperability between small cells and Evolved Packet Core (EPC) equipment from different vendors.
“The plugfest aims to cultivate an effective ecosystem of interoperable small cells, which creates a wider choice of small cell products and facilitates economies of scale,” said Ronny Haraldsvik, chief marketing officer, SpiderCloud Wireless, which was one of 16 companies that participated. Others included Airspan Networks, Cisco and JDSU.
Interoperability tests, monitored by test tools, were conducted between small cells and EPCs, security gateways, macro eNodeB — and as an option HeNB gateways — to verify the S1 interface implementations. In a multi-vendor HetNet environment, mobility scenarios such as handout with the macro network using S1 and X2 interfaces were tested. VoLTE (IMS) calls were also tested. The Plugfest routinely repeated tests of IPsec/IKEv2 security protocols, which allow a small cell to communicate over the public Internet to operators’ core networks in a highly secure manner.
“The objective of the Forum in helping carriers cross the chasm to mass small-cell deployments is brought much closer to realization by the results of this Plugfest,” said Gordon Mansfield, Chairman of the Small Cell Forum. “As we continue to drive certainty into the technology and business case of the small cell future, such Plugfests provide the key structural underpinning to the new generations of mobile networks.”
LTE is critical to the future of wireless; however, the reality is that it is going to be a multi-mode, multi-access world for years to come, with carriers such as AT&T and Verizon Wireless voicing their long-term support for a joint 3G and 4G environment, Haraldsvik said.
“Some of these 3G networks will not be refarmed over to 4G technology for probably another decade or so. And there are still 2G networks out there,” he said. “Having a 4G plug fest is important, but what is more important is that we have 3G and 4G multi-mode, multi-access small cells that can work with other manufacturers’ equipment.”
When it comes to the access technologies, SpiderCloud has been compliant with the Wideband CDMA world in the transition to an all-LTE network. Most GSM providers moved to WCDMA for their 3G technology. AT&T and T-Mobile both operate WCDMA networks.
“WCDMA operators, which account for 90 percent of the world, will be providing 3G (WCDMA), LTE and Wi-Fi for quite some time. They will have a lot longer tail on 3G technology,” Haraldsvik said.
Verizon Wireless is rapidly transitioning to LTE from CDMA, conceivably because the latter lacks the global economies of scale. SpiderCloud purposely did not build a CDMA product because of the aggressive buildout to LTE among CDMA providers, such as Verizon Wireless. It will provide them with an LTE product.