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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Netgear + Ubiquisys : necessary but not sufficient for femtocells

Good to see one of the first concrete signs of integrating femtocells with broadband routers. There will be some markets in which the mobile operators also have fixed/broadband sister companies or partners, so they can hope to offer an integrated device in the future.

However.... I really don't buy the idea of a single service provider for multi-person households for broadband+mobile. In a family you may find that each family member is on a different contract phasing, so you can't migrate everyone to a single operator. One adult may have a company-provided phone. Little Johnny might want a specific handset on a particular MVNO. Any or all of the family members might have 2 or 3 separate mobile devices or service providers.

Add to this the legacy issues - most homes already have a broadband provider, quite possibly with either an integrated WiFi capability or separate AP. Not many people churn broadband provider - it's particularly a pain if you've got ISP-named email accounts - or, in the future, IPTV or other services locking consumers in. Not many people are keen on throwing away their existing WiFi box for fear of having to set up all their device configurations anew.

Bottom line is that "one box" households are implausible, especially for the more valuable customer segments. Until there's a good way to link up, configure & manage multiple APs, routers, femtocells - as well as integrate them into single units - the market won't grow.

More specifically on the Netgear announcement - available for testing Q4 2007 for commercial deployment early 2008? Not a chance. Expect at least 9-12 months of large-scale testing, both technical (eg what happens if you have 1000 femtos in a square mile?), and commercial/user testing (price, packaging, setup, support etc). Probably add in another 12 months to optimise billing systems and handsets. Mid-2009 maybe, assuming everything's going well.

Like the representatives of Netgear & Ubiquisys, I too will also be speaking at the International Conference on Home Access Points and Femtocells, taking place in London from July 3-5

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