I've had two conversations this week with senior, technically- and commercially-savvy representatives of the cellular industry, both from very well-known organisations at the core of the mobile world.
Both have expressed severe reservations about the femtocell model, at both technical and commercial levels. They mentioned various issues I've discussed before, including the need to support multiple operators within a single household, and the prevalence of WiFi in almost all devices creating meaningful volumes of cellular data traffic.
Yet I still see various protagonists in the femtocell industry suggesting that femtos could potentially replace WiFi as an access mechanism in homes or businesses. (I'm going to leave public hotspots for a moment, as their owners have typically made a multi-year mess of pricing and ease-of-use, which is another bugbear of mine).
In my view, the positioning of femtos as WiFi-replacements diminishes the credibility of the companies involved - not just in the eyes of those who actually understand WiFi, but also in the eyes of those skeptics in the hardcore macrocellular community who believe that "outside-in always wins".
Yes, there are marginal cases where the precise configuration of a connection manager client on a PC or iPhone might divert a few MB of traffic one way or the other. But the lack of awareness of how ethernet (yes, remember WiFi = WLAN = Wireless Ethernet) works and gets deployed and managed is sometimes scary. I've sat through hour-long panel debates on supposed opportunities for enterprise femtos without a single mention of terms like "firewall", "power over ethernet" or a recognition that companies like to manage *their* LAN without bits of it being managed by a third party that typically *outsources its own servers*.
The same arguments apply in the home. Ethernet and WiFi are now pervasive, and I see no reason that they're likely to disappear.
My view is that the femto industry needs to tackle this issue head on, and learn how to play *nicely* with WiFi, rather than pretend it's either irrelevant or a competitor. Otherwise it is going to find it hard to convince even the skeptics in the mobile industry, let alone the IT world.