Vodafone femtocells inside your house soon ?
Vodafone has just put up an unassuming little note on their website touting femtocells are “safe” wireless devices. The big picture is what interests me: “Vodafone is developing femtocells to enhance the connection to our network from inside our customers’ homes or small office locations.” Given that they have been in trials with Alcatel and Huawei for a while, are they about to launch a UK femtocell product ? A Qatar deployment has been announced, but are we about to see the first UK operator deploying at home ?
Wireless coverage is a real headache for 3G operators and femtocells (tiny base stations that operate on licensed spectrum), are a fantastic way of solving this conundrum. Low power and installed inside your house (possibly even paid by you), they are an elegant way for the operator to provide better coverage, cheaper cell calls and lower churn. Whether they can also work well for larger groups than your family unit, I don’t know; I will let Will Franks (CTO of Ubiquisis) decide.
It’s also big business : 3G Home femtocells are expected to generate over $9bn in service revenues by 2014, according to this report by Juniper. That is way beyond anyone’s forecasting horizon, so I guess we should just read that: “some day femtocells will be very, very big”.
My partner Graham O’Keeffe — a fan of both Jesus and the Dude and who is the seed investor behind Ubiquisys (top rated femtocell vendor by ABI Research) and Picochip (whose chips power the Alcatel femtocells) — says: “if operators expect millions of subscribers to start using data services in anger — and the latest 3G iPhone will only make this more likely — they will absolutely need the radical network improvements that femtocells can provide; if they are serious about making data coverage a mass market offering, there is no better way“.
As with every new mobile paradigm, some are already questioning its viability. As Julien Blin reports: “Some reports even suggest that femtocells might not even be needed in the 4G world if the spectrum used for LTE deployment is strong enough to offer better in-building coverage“. time will tell. What is certain, is that if you can get you head around the LTE Alphabet soup (and figure out how to sustain the Chinese onslaught), wireless broadband remains an entertaining space !