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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Plenty going on with femtocells

After a few quiet weeks, it's all happening in femto-ville this week:

Top of the list is the NEC/Ubiquisys rollout for Softbank. The Japanese operator has long been rumoured as the most likely near-term commercial deployment candidate, and is interestingly basing its architecture around IMS rather than the new 3GPP femto standard. Like DoCoMo, (which is planning its own "HomeArea" femto service with Mitsubishi) it is slightly hamstrung by near-term regulatory limits on installing cell-sites, which mandate an engineer be in attendance. However, I suspect that Softbank may be a bit more aggressive than its larger & more conservative peer in getting that law changed, or (perhaps) scrutinising it for loopholes.

One thing I'm less convinced by is Motorola's femto/picture-frame combination. Which looks remarkably like the original Motorola femto/picture frame prototype from 3GSM a couple of years ago that never went anywhere. (Unfortunately I can't find the name or a picture of the thing....). Over at ThinkFemtocell, there's a list of other possible widgets that could incorporate femtos , but my view is that all of these things should actually be static 3G endpoints which connect to a central femto elsewhere in the home. In other words, "phones" specifically designed to work with a femto, a bit like the various WiFi home gadgets like Internet radios and the cute Nabaztag wifi rabbit. I discuss the concept of femto-specific devices in this report.

One of my analyst peers has got quite a lot of press this week with the notion that LTE could be underpinned by a femto layer. I agree entirely - back in May I suggested that "femtos will only become truly massmarket when we get to LTE deploymentand my current forecasts only really forecast a major uptick in shipment numbers above 10m per year, from 2013 onwards. There's a good article from PicoChip on LTE femtos here as well. 

My only slight concern on this is that the vast majority of offloadable mobile data traffic comes from devices that have WiFi in them as well - especially PCs, iPhones and high-end Symbian & Windows smartphones. Collectively, I reckon it's 99%+ on many networks at present - a figure that might fall (and obviously there's voice traffic to offload as well) , but the "inverted pyramid" effect will stay in place for many years.

Lastly, I should mention I'm moderating a panel on Femtos vs WiFi at the NetEvents Press & Analyst summit in Portugal on Thursday - speakers include representatives from Motorola, Airvana, Ubiquisys, Trapeze and GenBand (which just acquired NextPoint)

1 comment:

Stefano Quintarelli said...

My only slight concern on this is that the vast majority of offloadable mobile data traffic comes from devices that have WiFi in them as well - especially PCs, iPhones and high-end Symbian & Windows smartphones. Collectively, I reckon it's 99%+ on many networks at present - a figure that might fall (and obviously there's voice traffic to offload as well) , but the "inverted pyramid" effect will stay in place for many years.

I agree.
I wrote a post on TI and prospects of femtos here http://is.gd/2ZMH; I'd like to read your comment..