Ottawa's Zarlink Semiconductor Inc. says it has created a standards-based ToP algorithm and Timing Protocol software solution that could lead to wide deployment of home and enterprise femtocells. Femtocells are small cellular base stations which can to improve voice and data services by extending wireless network coverage. They can also reduce backhaul costs by routing wireless voice and data traffic through customers' broadband connection.

To bring reliable, high-quality wireless voice service, Zarlink says its ToP technology uses the packet network to provide synchronization for the femtocells. Based on IEEE1588-2008 and NTPv4 protocols, ToP technology offers frequency accuracy performance of better than 50 parts per billion (ppb) to align the femtocell timing signals with the cellular network. The algorithm and software is a standalone product portable to processor and system-on-a-chip devices from telecom equipment makers. Both IEEE1588 precision time protocol (PTP) and network timing protocol (NTP) solutions targeting WCDMA will be available to customers of chipmaker picoChip Designs Ltd.  for porting to the PC302 and PC312 devices in early 2010, says Zarlink.

“Femtocells represent a significant opportunity for our network synchronization solutions, with large carriers now launching femtocells worldwide,” said Jamileh Davoudi, product line marketing manager with Zarlink's Timing and Synchronization group. “Combining our packet network timing expertise with field-proven products from a leading femtocell chip supplier, such as picoChip, enables us to deliver reliable solutions that will allow manufacturers to develop a new range of products that support reduced development deployment costs and power requirements.”
 
In a March, 2009 report, ABI Research said the recession has slowed expected large-scale femtocell access point deployments by operators. Fewer than 1 million were expected to be sold this year. However, sales were expected to pick up next year. By 2014 some 30 million access points could be shipped, said ABI. About 90 per cent of the market would be residential.

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Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of ITWorldCanada.com and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including ITBusiness.ca and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@] soloreporter.com