The Femto Forum announced today that it has renamed itself to the Small Cell Forum, recognizing that the femtocell technology it has been promoting now addresses a wider range of indoor and outdoor applications.
The original focus of the Femto Forum was based around a mass market of residential femtocells, where early models offered a capacity of 4 concurrent calls. Since that time, the technology has evolved to include enterprise and outdoor applications. Higher capacity and range have been accompanied by ever more sophisticated features. Femtocells capable of 32 concurrent sessions are not uncommon, and rural femtocells with front end RF power amplifiers capable of up to several kilometers range.
So it is perhaps no surprise that the Femto Forum has chosen to rebrand itself with this wider application, and will henceforth be known as the Small Cell Forum.
Other aspects of the femtocell industry also change their name
The major femtocell conference events, endorsed by the Femto Forum and usually colocated with Forum committee meetings, was Avren’s Femtocell World Series.
This conference series, still run under the Avren banner although now part of the Clarion conference business, was renamed to the Small Cell World Series last October. These events still retain the same format and regional focus, with an agenda expanded to address the wider scope that the name implies.
On a similar basis, our own website ThinkFemtocell became ThinkSmallCell.com last month.
Analyst forecasts highlight the growing revenue potential of public access small cells
ABI Research is one of several analyst firms to have forecast substantial numbers of femtocells, something that they (and others) continue to do – but with changes in timeframe and context. In particular, outdoor devices will provide 77% of the revenues of all small cells.
So while there may be large numbers of residential femtocells – over 500K have been deployed by each of Sprint and AT&T in North America – the higher specifications and costs of outdoor devices will be where the money is.
Although the Forum’s definition of a femtocell had precluded Wi-Fi – femtocells operate in licenced spectrum – the organization had recognized the complementary nature of Wi-Fi and published a report comparing the two technologies.
With growing investment in public Wi-Fi networks, and interest in combined Wi-Fi/3G/LTE small cells, the Forum will no doubt be continuing to take a position on how this fits into the broader scheme. Indeed, it has stated that it will support the crossover between small cells and other relevant technologies including not just Wi-Fi but also Cloud RAN, DAS and macrocells as part of a heterogeneous network (HetNet).
Not abandoning their roots
Although this name change may imply the Forum will switch its focus to outdoor/public access equipment, the momentum it has built up for residential femtocells isn’t going to go away. I expect it will continue to support this segment of the market, albeit that many of the technical problems have been overcome through its work to date.
The ongoing demand for wireless broadband data, at higher speeds, lower latency and greater capacity, will require widescale adoption of a small cell approach. The laws of physics set limits beyond which traditional archictectures simply can’t breach. We can therefore expect the renamed Small Cell Forum to continue to drive the industry as it adopts this technology worldwide.