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ODM100Most 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.

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.

Set-Top Box and Integrated Femtocells

Although not popular so far, some femtocells have been incorporated into set top boxes and broadband modems by the existing vendors of those products (e.g. Netgear, Thomson, SagemComm etc.).

In the short term, separate physical products will be developed and manufactured, either by the femtocell vendors themselves or under contract. This allows rapid revision and new product versions to be launched in volume to meet market needs.

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.

Ubiquisys have moved to a software licensing model, where they supply a reference hardware design which ODMs (Original Device Manufacturers) can adapt, packing into different formats and cost-engineer. When installed, the unit downloads software directly from Ubiquisys and a software licence fee is paid.

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 offer 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. For example, ADB (arguably not an ODM themselves) have demonstrated how incoming calls on the femtocell can prompt the Caller ID to be shown onscreen on the TV.

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.

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 : 22220


#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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