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Monday, July 23, 2007

Google - why the interest in femtos?

OK, I'm a bit stumped by Google's investment in Ubiquisys the other day, unless it's a purely financial transaction - or unless Ubiquisys has something up its sleeve other than plain old 3G femtos.

Yes, I know that Google's talking about pitching $4.6bn for the US 700MHz spectrum... and yes I know that there's a 700MHz standard for UMTS going through 3GPP at the moment. But I'd have thought that femtos at that sort of frequency was fairly pointless, as the big attraction of 700MHz is that it's got great range & goes through walls easily.

The real advantage of 3G femtos in my view lies in 2100MHz 3G spectrum (ie most of the world today outside the US), and probably in the future in 2600MHz band. It's conceivable that Google might want to start bidding for those chunks of spectrum around the world, but I'm unconvinced that it's going to follow the classic cellular path (ie 3GPP UMTS or LTE) rather than something more Internet-like.

There's an outside possibility that Google might in fact want to do something with WiMAX - but at present Ubiquisys doesn't do WiMAX femtos, although chipset supplier PicoChip is certainly doing suitable silicon. Maybe that's what the investment's for....


Anonymous said...

It seems that Google is showing a preference for "experiments" where the network is built "inside out", taking a DSL connection and extending it outwards. FON and Meraki are doing just this, "almost" a franchise model, even in the legal sense.

If 700 Mhz "has great range" and "goes through walls easily", such femtos can be user-installed from within their homes and buildings, surely it beats more centralised capex, site acquisitions, etc. etc.

wirelessman said...

has there been any indication of what air interface technology google is considering for the 700 MHz band? It's paired spectrum so that points to something FDD (though not necessarily...you can deploy a TDD channel in each half of the pair). Are we talking WiMAX, UMTS, something else?