Femtocell Technology is Moving Forward

Femtocell technology is a type of wireless phone technology that can be implemented in the home or office in order to improve the call quality of mobile phones in indoor locations. In addition to reducing the problem of poor indoor call quality, femtocell base stations have the potential to reduce the drain on capacity that advanced mobile phone services (such as mobile broadband) place on carriers. 2008 was predicted as a year that femtocell technology was going to begin to move forward and those predictions seem to be correct. Advances are being made in femtocell technology that are bringing products based on this technology to the market this year. However, it likely to be another year or two before the market for this technology really peaks.

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Femtocell Trials

There have been a number of trials taking place in the last year or so which have been designed to test out femtocell-based products in the market. Limited-area testing has allowed carriers to determine whether or not the products are going to be successful as well as how well they are going to be received by the market. Testing has proven that the products are satisfactory to customers and that there is indeed a demand for this type of product. Sprint Nextel, O2 and Vodafone have been leaders in these types of trials with Sprint Nextel being the company that has made the most achievements in terms of successful testing.

Femtocells on the Market

As a result of the fact that many of these femtocell product trials were successful, a number of companies have now moved forward with marketing of femtocell products. The last half of 2008 is a big year in terms of the release of a number of these products from major carriers.

The company that has been most successful in getting femtocell service to the market has been Sprint. After highly successful trial testing, Sprint decided to go nationwide across the United States with a femtocell service called Airave. It uses a broadband connection to extend cell service indoors or up to 5,000 feet from the device. The femtocell device costs $100 outright and there are phone plans that are relatively inexpensive for monthly calling using the product. People are taking an interest in the product so far and initial reviews have been positive. However it will take some time to see whether or not the type of product and service offered by Sprint is the one that will prevail in the femtocell market.

Other companies throughout the world are continuing on with their testing and have plans to release their femtocell products to the market within the next six months to a year. For example, the U.S. cable company Comcast is part of a WiMax consortium that is looking at options for putting femtocells on the market in the very near future. They are interested in building out a major femtocell network to reduce their own costs over time.

Trials that were launched by European carriers continue on with expanded trials starting to take place in many areas. Vodafone and O2 are leading the way in this area but there are several smaller carriers that are also doing their own testing. It is predicted that these companies are going to announce the release of their femtocell products and plans to the market within a very short period of time.

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Femtocell Technology is Just Beginning to Gain Ground

Like with any new technology, femtocell technology is going to take some time to get off of the ground. Although 2008 is the year during which these products are beginning to sell, this will not likely be the year when femtocell-based technology really becomes a widespread volume-selling product. Instead, those people who like to test out new technology will be the ones buying femtocell products this year. Assuming that these people report positive reviews when using the femtocell-based products, it is likely that there will be an upswing in sales of femtocell-based products.

It is believed by industry analysts that late 2009 is going to be the turning point for femtocell-based products. In addition to the fact that the products will have been tested and reviewed throughout the market by that time, the price of femtocell technology is probably going to have dropped within the first year. This will make the products appealing to a general market as compared to the niche market that first takes interest in them. Towards the end of 2009 and on into 2010 is when sales of femtocell-based products are currently predicted to be at their highest.

Importance of Femtocell Customer Service

One of the things that is important to note is that it may not be solely the products themselves that will make femtocell technology successfully. It has been suggested in the past that the customer service associated with femtocell technology could be at least as important as the technology is in making customers interested in utilizing these products. One of the barriers to the use of these products so far has been the difficulty of installation and there remain concerns from some customers that installation and ongoing service issues could make these products more frustrating than valuable. Carriers that institute great service plans for femtocell-based products will be more likely to fare well because they will directly address these concerns.

Saving Money with Femtocells

One of the reasons that carriers want to implement this technology is that femtocell technology can reduce the drain of wireless phones on their networks which ultimately results in a cost savings for the carrier. Customers ultimately hope that this means that the carriers will pass on some cost savings to them. However there are also significant costs in initially setting up femtocell products and service which means that initial femtocell costs could be higher than customers would like.

Mobile Broadband and Femtocell Technology

The reason that people initially took an interest in femtocell technology was because it was a way to improve indoor call quality for people using cell phones in various locations. However, the reason that femtocell technology has really taken off is because we are moving away from a time when cell phones are primarily a narrowband product and into a time when everyone is taking a strong interest in mobile broadband. This shift is causing a drain on the carriers that must be addressed. Femtocell technology is one of the most viable methods of addressing that problem and bringing mobile broadband up to a higher quality.

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2 thoughts on “Femtocell Technology is Moving Forward

  1. An excellent summary of the state of the femtocell industry.

    One of the developments we are seeing is the combination of a femtocell with broadband internet modem in a single box – just as WiFi is a common integrated option today.

    Vendors like Netgear and Thomson have demonstrated prototype products which incorporate femtocell modules from the independent femto vendors. These already include easy self-installation and remote management features using the widely adopted TR-069 protocol from the Broadband Forum (formerly DSL Forum).

    This will address the installation concerns you mention and get the product lifecycle cost down to attractive levels.

    I’d also point out that whilst Airave sells for 99 dollars, the price of femtocells today is still probably over 200. Higher volumes will drop the cost down to the 100 dollars which is what operators are demanding today.

    David Chambers
    ThinkFemtocell.com

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