Femtocell interview with Keith Day, VP Marketing Ubiquisys

keithday2Keith Day, VP Marketing at Ubiquisys, shares his perspective on how domestic femtocells could be marketed, provides insights into their Enterprise femtocells and reveals a few unique features of their designs.

When will we see the elusive major operator launches of domestic femtocells?

Femtocells have already been launched by SoftBank, Starhub, Vodafone UK and AT&T.  Many more operators around the world are running customer trials in preparation for launch, and still more are conducting friendly user or technology trials.  So for most operators, the femtocell question seems to have moved from “if” to “when”.

The fact that operators have started by offering femtocells as a point solution to improve coverage makes sense.  This pragmatic approach appeals to early adopters and gives mainstream consumers time to become familiar with this new technology.  The social networking feedback I’ve seen suggests that early customers are satisfied with their femtocells and are hungry for a matching leap in commercial innovation.

I expect to see a variety of commercial innovations as femtocells are integrated into operators’ mainstream offers.  These include bundling femtocells with household broadband and mobile subscriptions, or offering free mobile data at home to encourage customers to try new services.  There are also many flat rate “home zone” calling plans emerging.  The economics of all these propositions are comprehensively analysed in the Small Cell Forum’s Business Case white paper.

We shouldn’t underestimate another driver.  At a time when mobile data use is causing congestion in macro networks, femtocells provide economical capacity relief, which benefits all users.  This is also covered by the Femto Forum paper.

What’s special about the Ubiquisys femtocell?

Ubiquisys created its unique Real-time Cognitive Radio technology, which sits at the heart of our Interference Mitigation System.  Only Ubiquisys femtocells continuously listen to surrounding macro and femtocells, and continuously adapt their configuration based on the Operator’s policies.  Transmit power, frequency and scrambling codes are all managed in this way.

So our femtocells react instantly to environmental changes such as opening the patio doors or when a neighbour turns on a femtocell.  The result is that interference problems are minimized, which is good for femto owners but also good for everyone else using their mobiles. This functionality has been stress-tested in the field by mobile operators, and paves the way for the dense mass-deployment of femtocells.

We’ll soon be unveiling full details of our G3 femtocell, which sets new standards in performance, miniaturisation, power consumption and price.

First Choice Device

Femtocells don’t just provide coverage indoors.  Because the voice quality surpasses that of a DECT cordless phone, and because the mobile already has the best contact list, they bring the mobile phone up to the top of the communications pecking order, to become the first choice device in the home.  This will change indoor phone use behaviour, and will make people look at fixed-mobile convergence as a natural progression rather than a big step.

Pushing ahead with Enterprise

Our enterprise femtocell is another first, and builds on our pioneering work in cognitive radio.  As well as listening to each other in real time, our enterprise femtocells use this information to create a self-organising grid of coverage.  This robust system eliminates radio planning costs and means that the femtocells can be installed by IT staff, just like WiFi access points.

What’s the ideal capacity for Enterprise femtocells?

A European operator did a major study of the optimal size of enterprise femtocells and came up with the conclusion that between 8 and 16 concurrent sessions is about right for each femtocell.

Using our grid femtocell approach, the capacity can be shared and apportioned dynamically between available femtocells in overlapping coverage areas to distribute the load efficiently.

And finally, what’s so different about Enterprise femtocells themselves?

Ultimately, the grid functionality is a software upgrade to our standard femtocell (software is the heart of every femtocell).

There are hardware options that may be employed for some market segments.  These include power-over-ethernet and device cases for plenum space installation. We’ve also developed some additional administration interfaces to allow IT staff to monitor the health of the grid

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