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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Femtocells and 3G dongles - a paradox?

I'm at the big Femto conference in London this morning. I'll write up more during the event, but a thought just struck me.

We now know that the largest amount of data on 3G networks emanates from PCs, not phones. Dongles are causing the macro load, plus a few high-end devices like iPhones. So it therefore follows that if femtos are being used for offloading data traffic from the (expensive & congested) macro network, then the majority of that offload data should also be PC/dongle-related.

But if the mobile broadband hype-merchants are to be believed, then 3G (or LTE or WiMAX) broadband will substitute for fixed broadband in the home. In which case, exactly what is the femto going to be attached to?

Or if someone does have ADSL or cable at home... what's the justification for the extra cost of a femto to connect the PC, rather than using cheap and simple (and faster) WiFi, integrated into the router or even wired ethernet? The devices generating all the data traffic in the home home - PCs, iPhones, top-end Windows Mobile or Symbian devices - all now have evolved & usable WiFi.


Anonymous said...

I'm glad someone is finally thinking critically about femtocells. Why do I want a femtocell in my house? To save the carrier money on backhaul? No, that's their problem not mine. To offer new services that are not possible without a femtocell? Anything I can do with a femtocell, I can do with Wifi. To save money? Maybe, but I would need to see a pricing plan that made sense (highly subsidized femtocells, home zone pricing with significantly reduced cost of service, etc.) Is the resulting reduction in backhaul cost enough to justify the revenue hit that carriers will take on home zone pricing (and to cover all the additional ovelooked (but significant) costs of adding femtocells to the network - little things like operations, billing system enhancements, etc.)

Add it all up and femtocells are far from a sure thing, certainly not deserving of the massiv ehype they currently receive.

Anonymous said...

I think whats going to happen is that consumers will initially buy femtos for in home converage. Once the femtocell gets into the home that way, the carriers can then use the femtocells to deliver their services via femtocell instead of wifi where they have more control.

I would agree that if you don't have coverage issues, it probably doesn't make sense to get a femtocell just for 3g data.

Anonymous said...

The killer app for femtos isn't 3g data, its indoor coverage without having to buy another handset.

90% of people who will be in the market for femtos will buy it for that and only that reason.

Of course as femtos become more common, carriers will think of more innovative ways of using it and maybe another killer app will come out of it.

Dean Bubley said...

Anonymous 2: I presume from your use of the word "carrier" rather than "operator" that you're from North America?

If so, I'd agree that in the US the main early deployment case for femtos would be indoor coverage.

That is unlikely to be true in however Europe *unless* it was for 3G, which runs at 2.1GHz and typically has worse indoor penetration.


Anonymous said...

There is no paradox, at the moment

The femto-cell case is currently for
telephony. And that is good enough for now (FMS etc) . As others have stated,
if you are in a 'stationary' mode etc,
you want your device to select the best-
capacity connections that support the services you wish to use. If that is
WiFi etc, so be it. If a mobile network,
use the data card. You might use all of

The concepts of connection/QoS
selection, brokering etc are to be
found in the NGN (fixed) and 4G
(mobile) developments.

But try to stay on planet Earth with
the current issues. Which is where
femto-cells (3G) are.

Anonymous said...

Besides indoor coverage issues, femtocells will be marketed as a home POTs and VOIP alternative/replacement.

If the carriers can price the femtos so its cheaper than POTs or VOIP (cable or internet), people are going to switch.

I personally like to have a separate home # that is distinct from my cell home, but I think most people just want a single line.

Dean Bubley said...

Anonymous - I don't think that makes sense.

Given that the femto needs to be attached to a fixed DSL/cable line, VoIP can already be provided to the home through the router, without the extra cost of the femto.

It will also vary a lot by country - I don't think most people outside the US would want a specific mobile "home" number, as well their personal numbers. It's a bit weird to have an 07xxx mobile number for a location, rather than a person.