Although I wasn’t able to attend this month’s China femtocell event in Beijing, I’ve captured a few details from those who were there. This brief report also provides some insight into current femtocell activities in the country.
Femtocell Opinion, comment and reviews
Some quick analysis of residential femtocell offers available today showed that over half (8 out of 14) require you to buy their wireline broadband service too. Is that percentage likely to remain the same as the market grows, and does this give either party an advantage?
Much of the initial market hype for femtocells has been for the residential market. Since then femtocell designs have grown in capacity to fit the enterprise market needs, and are also suitable for Metro-Femto deployment. Are residential femtocells still the best initial route for new network operators to take? We describe three alternative types of femtocell rollout and discuss which is the best initial path.
Amazon has stirred up the eBook reader world by reducing the price of a Kindle to as low as $139, the second price drop in a few months. The international version (which uses 3G GSM) has also been revamped and discounted. The Wall Street Journal estimates that sales have reached around 3.5 to 4 million units to date, comparable to Apple’s iPad 3.3 million units by the end of June. The eBook platform war is livening up!
Is the industry making much progress about enabling femtocell applications? There's been a lot of focus on the so-called greater femtocell - expanding the vision from residential to enterprise, rural and metro environments. But is that at the expense of femtocell applications?
I asked Dr. Mustafa Ergen, Director of Research and Technology at Argela, about their market positioning, which centres on open standards both for the Iu-h interface and for femtocell applications.
When mobile operators wanted to encourage their customers to use their mobile phones instead of their fixed landline phones, some introduced special pricing plans that offered discounted calls when at home or nearby. Sometimes called Fixed Mobile Substitution (FMS), these low calling rates encouraged users to make the switch. I believe this approach makes no sense for operators who offer mobile broadband data at home - unless they do so using femtocells.
Today, an EU Directive takes force requiring all mobile networks in the European Union to limit data roaming charges to 50 Euros unless the customer opts-out. This prevents bill shock, caused by high prices when using smartphones and laptops abroad. Could these high prices be reduced when roaming abroad on femtocells?
Here are some highlights from this month’s IIR In-Building Summit held in London. I was only able to attend the first two days, but learnt a lot about the technical methods used to provide good in-building coverage today (mainly for very large buildings) and talked to several network planners about how the industry is changing the way they work.
Over 20 new femtocell vendors have appeared on the scene in the last year, but none (to my knowledge) is yet in commercial deployment. How has the landscape changed and how can existing femtocell pioneers retain their position? We spoke to several leading industry players to find out.
For the purpose of this article, we’ll restrict ourselves to mainstream 3G UMTS domestic femtocells, which are expected to ship in their millions in the near future.
(We’ll cover the CDMA market in a separate article.)
IIR’s Mobile Network Performance conference provided some real insight into how several European operators are tackling the issue of measuring and dealing with mobile broadband services.
This is one of the smaller conferences, targeting a very specific group of people looking at how to manage the storm of growing capacity. Several operators revealed considerable detail about the approach they use, although some understandably could not share confidential figures.
Here are my summary notes of the event. Apologies for having to omit many good presentations and conversations from other delegates.
I’ve been out and about a lot in the last couple of weeks – conferences, travel and business meetings. It’s struck me how much more important good data access on the move has become, for both business and personal communication. With 3G cellular networks unable to provide good data service inside many buildings, Wi-Fi is a common alternative, but it falls down in so many ways that it’s become frustrating. Can femtocells satisfy this gap in customer expectation?
Avren’s annual BaseStation conference was again highly insightful, covering both the macro economic factors affecting network operator’s businesses as well as the technical detail of the real world engineering in use and under development today. The conference addresses the needs of European operators, with contributions from UK, Austria, France, Sweden and elsewhere.
Analyst forecasts for femtocell shipments (especially in the early years) have differed widely, and been revised heavily. A recent report from Infonetics grabbed the headlines with a figure of 154% growth*. This related to the growth in femtocell revenues (not number of units) from 2008 to 2009. Given the relatively low base of sales in the last two years, this isn’t surprising. What I’m hearing is that today’s shipments are dominated by Sprint (in the US) and Vodafone (in the UK), but that several other operators could be ramping up volumes during the remainder of this year.
A digital rights bill was passed by the UK Parliament last week, quickly rushed through in a wash-up process prior to next month’s election. The bill included a scheme to disconnect wireline broadband from those conducting piracy of copyright material. One concern raised by many objectors is that anyone offering free access to Wi-Fi might open themselves up to disconnection due to abuse by their customers or passers-by. Would this affect the interest and takeup of femtocells?
Ericsson has been stoically refuting the technical and commercial advantages promoted by the femtocell industry for quite some time. They previously offered a 2G GSM femtocell, but couldn’t see the business case for 3G femtos. But this month a femtocell was spotted on their stand at CTIA.
I rather liked the “two cloud” model of an advanced mobile network, described by Huawei. They’ve suggested that future networks will use macrocells to provide universal coverage everywhere (albeit with a worst case 256 kbit/s speed), supplemented by a large pico/femto layer where high capacity and/or data rates are needed (with a more generous 2 Mbit/s speed).
Some interesting facts and figures about the strains of data traffic load on today's mobile networks. With femtocells being positioned as an essential element of the solution, do the facts stack up?
The sun shone on the last day of Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, leaving a warm feeling on those who've worked (and played) hard throughout the week. With almost 50,000 attendees, this is very much the industry central event, covering a very diverse range of the community. Were femtocells as prominent this year as before?
It's happy families at Mobile World Congress, as more than one femtocell integrator expands their range of femtocells on offer. Is the femtocell interoperability standard taking shape?
Here’s a quick roundup from both press releases and some initial impressions of this years MWC in Barcelona. I’ll follow up on some of these comments in future posts, so keep an eye out.
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