picoChip platform enhancement address smartphone signaling problem

picoChip said it has enhanced its picoXcell platform to address the need to support large numbers of smartphones on a femtocell. By including smartSignaling features within the company's PC3x3, devices now enable up to 400 always on users on a femtocell.

"Everyone knows that mobile networks are filling up with data traffic generated by devices like BlackBerrys, iPhones or the iPad," said Rupert Baines, vice president of marketing at picoChip. "But what most people don't realize is that smartphones create problems even when they are not receiving or transmitting data. Their ‘always on' signaling systems hurt the network more than just the extra data traffic, and can by themselves be enough to push a network to the point of collapse."

By the accounts of Signals Research Group (SRG), signaling traffic is outgrowing data traffic by up to 50 percent thanks to smartphone signaling generated by a host of smartphone applications.

By supporting special signaling states and adding shared channels, smartSignaling significantly improves network efficiency by relieving the burden of push email and applications on ‘always connected' devices, especially important for femtocells in the enterprise or public areas, the company said.

First, the chip supports special handset ‘sleep' modes. Handsets using these modes, specifically Cell_PCH, require many fewer signaling messages to ‘wake up' and transition to a fully active state in which data can be transferred, reducing the effective demand on the network. Secondly, picoChip's PC3x3 devices also provide additional specialized channels for signaling information via Common E-DCH and Enhanced Cell_FACH functionality. This allows many devices to efficiently share the base station.

"This level of signaling offload looks like a unique feature set to picoChip (at least for the moment) and strengthens the case for femtocells as not just a capacity offload solution but as a signaling offload solution as well," said ABI Research analyst Aditya Kaul in a recent blog post. "Compared to WiFi offload this gives femtocells an edge for sure, as WiFi is primarily meant to offload capacity and not signaling traffic. With collapsed RNCs, femtos are able to take most of the signaling traffic off the operator core network. There seems to be a general revival in interest toward enterprise femtocells and the main reason is the data explosion from smartphones many of which are found in offices. Having spoken to many of the large operators, this seems to be a problem that needs urgent fixing, and WiFi doesn't seem to be a long-term solution for them."

The smartSignaling is a firmware upgrade for picoChip's PC3x3 picoXcell devices.

For more:
- see this release
- see this ABI Research blog post

Related articles:
A signal too noisy: Operators at risk of signaling traffic deluge
What's really causing the capacity crunch?

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