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ODM100Numerically, most small cells are manfactured by ODMs (Original Device Manufacturers), who are expert in high volume/low cost/high quality production of consumer electronics equipment. They specialise in taking equipment designs from established/proven vendors, and re-engineering them for mass production at low cost. This might involve changing some of the components, redesigning the internal electronics boards/layout and packaging format. With large factory capacity, strong buying power from their component suppliers, these companies can ramp up production capacity very quickly and meet delivery orders in very short timescales.

The larger and higher RF power small cell products, especially urban/outdoor units of 1W or greater, are shipped in much lower volumes and command a higher price, so do not need quite so much cost engineering. These may be manufactured in existing cellsite production facilities. 

Independent Small Cell Specialists

Independent small cell specialist companies, such as Cisco, ip.access and Airvana have their own relationships with high volume manufacturing contractors. There are a number of new entrants to the market who are also supplying direct.

Different commercial arrangements with Original Device Manufacturers

Higher volume suppliers have engaged low cost manufacturing expertise from Taiwan and other Far Eastern companies. There are various commercial options in place.

In the early days of residential femtocells, the very large market forecasts of many tens of millions attracted interest from many Asian ODMs. Over time, their interest has dropped off, leaving a smaller number that remain actively involved in the industry.

Alcatel-Lucent also work with a limited number of ODMs. This allows the network operator to choose competitively from several suppliers, specify any customisation (e.g. logos or special packaging format), while the unit is tested and certified by Alcatel-Lucent in their labs. This balances low cost, supplier diversity and risk.

Far Eastern based

Many ODMs are based on the Far East, such as Taiwan and China, where they dominate many types of consumer electronics. Their products may be commissioned with branding and logos from specific customers, such as for larger network operators or well known consumer brands.

It is said that many ODMs have yet to gain practical field experience of femtocell RF (radio frequency) electronics (and especially the "secret sauce" of network optimisation algorithms), but most are familiar with Wi-Fi and/or cellular handsets. As the industry matures, they are slowly gaining this knowledge and experience.

There are several commercial models operating for ODMs in femtocells today:

  • They may work directly as subcontractor for one of the larger companies and build to their design and requirements. Alcatel-Lucent operates this way with several ODMs, specifying the hardware design, allowing the freedom for some cost engineering, and then providing the software which runs on the device. This allows Alcatel-Lucent to drive down costs, increase choice of device types/format and widen their supply base.
  • They may licence a design and build under their own name. Ubiquisys had offered ODMs the opportunity to build products to their hardware design, which is then supplied directly to the end customer. These femtocells automatically download and run Ubiquisys software, licenced from them by the operator directly. ODMs such as Sercomm have designed and shipped product on this basis.
  • They may design their own, typically starting from a reference design (from one of the chipset vendors) and software stacks (from one of the stack suppliers). Further consultancy services can also be bought to finish, test and trial the devices.
  • They may buy the femtocell as a discrete plug-in module that fits into an existing consumer product, such as a DSL router or IPTV set top box. This requires less technical knowledge of femtocells, but additional functionality and value can be created by closer integration between the two systems. At this stage, only Free France has shipped significant numbers of femtocells integrated into their set top box.

ODMs known to be active in femtocell design and development (not a complete list) are listed below.

These can be identified from attendees at the "plugfests" organised by ETSI to test and validate interoperability using the Iu-h standard, with participants announced here, press articles, press releases from the various component manufacturers, and from the websites of these companies themselves.


Other companies which had been visible in the past, but believed to be no longer active include:

  • Ablaze Wireless: US startup focussed on development of their own 3G femtocell including broadband chipset. Announced using CCPU (now Radisys) Trillium stack and participation in femtocell plugfests. Setup a Taiwanese office to handle local supply chain.
  • Alpha: Taiwanese spin-off of D-Link. Their WHD-FAP01 is described on their website.
  • Delta Networks: Taiwanese ODM with over 2000 employees. Products range from large Ethernet switches to residential CPE equipment. Offer their own 8-channel 21Mbit/s release 8 design.   
  • Femtel: Announced plan for TD-SCDMA femtocell based on Picochip reference design. Believed to be one of the three main suppliers to China Mobile.
  • Mitrastar: Originally the ODM division of Zyxel, this Taiwanese company has already started shipping femtocells to one or more of the major vendors. No longer believed to be shipping equipment.

This list is by no means exhaustive. Many companies have bought software stacks from the likes of Radisys (who claim around 30 "design wins" for 3G femtocells to date), and these manufacturers by their nature do not all strongly market themselves (to end consumers) so are difficult to track.

Find out where you can buy one and other common questions

Hits : 22542


#1 Keith Day said: 
Tecom FC1020 residential
Tecom FC1060 enterprise
Tecom FC1080 outdoor (under development)
+1 Quote 2011-05-05 11:26
#2 ThinkFemtocell said: 
@Keith: Thanks for pointing out. I've corrected this omission and added links to their website.

I'm happy to add any further amendments or corrections that viewers care to tell me about (either via a comment here or email through the contact page)
0 Quote 2011-05-05 21:59
#3 Uday Parida said: 
You have missed to add companies like Ablaze Wireless and Delta Networks.
0 Quote 2011-07-21 11:37
#4 ThinkFemtocell said: 
@Uday: Thanks for pointing that out - both those companies now added.
0 Quote 2011-07-25 19:45
#5 mega_processor said: 
do they have femtocell for 2G GSM calling available?most femetocells are for 3G.i am from India and i need one to test out
0 Quote 2012-04-20 04:03
#6 2G GSM femtocells also exist said: 
@mega_processor : Yes, there are a few 2G GSM femtocell although as you say, most of the industry focus and volume has been on 3G up to now. ip.access has been a leading vendor of these for enterprise/busi ness purposes for some years and there was also product developed and marketed by HSL a couple of years ago - (read our interview with Mark Hay of HSL on that one). I believe ip.access even had some success in India with their system, which can now handle both 2G and 3G femtocells sharing/connect ed to the same central BSC/RNC network box. See their website for more details and of course search within ThinkSmallCell for additional insights.
0 Quote 2012-04-20 13:29
#7 Nart Bajj said: 
Public Wireless Inc
develops and delivers femto based 3G/4G high power outdoor small cells.
0 Quote 2013-02-19 23:34
#8 Badry said: 
Hey..wanted a list of femtocells manufacturing companies for UK.I'm looking for a solution for Indoor coverage for Virtual Operators in UK, US and Europe.
0 Quote 2013-08-26 11:44
#9 ThinkSmallCell said: 
@Badry: I hope that from the list in this article, you found a useful selection of prospective contacts to consider.
0 Quote 2013-09-11 14:59

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