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China Femtocell Conference 2010 Report

China_flag 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.

Three alternative paths to femtocell rollout

three-waysMuch 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.

The low cost Kindle and femtocell opportunity

kindle-3GAmazon 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!

Opening up the market for femtocell applications

femtocell-applicationsIs 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.

Home Zone Data Tariffs without femtocells are daft

IndoorsWhen 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.

Do new limits on charges for roaming data use affect femtocells?

Data-LimitToday, 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?

IIR In-Building Summit Report – June 2010

iirHere 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.

The four ways to build and sell a femtocell

Four-Ways-Build-FemtocellOver 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 Mobile Network Performance Conference Report

logo_mobile-network-performance-iirIIR’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.

The pitfalls of Public Wi-Fi Access

Frustrated-Wi-Fi-UserI’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 Basestation Conference Notes

basestationAvren’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.

Forecast femtocell shipments for 2010 – Is the industry on track?

ShipmentsAnalyst 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.

UK Digital Rights Bill - a shot in the arm for femtocells?

Digital-Rights-BillA 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?

Is Ericsson rethinking it’s 3G femtocell strategy?

ericsson_logoEricsson 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.

Femtocells: An essential part of two layer mobile broadband networks

Colo-Node Femtocell 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).

Femtocell takeaways from Mobile World Congress

logo_mwc_10The 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?

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    Residential

    Residential

    A significant number of users continue to report poor mobile coverage in their homes. There will always be areas which are uneconomic for mobile operator to reach. They range from rural areas

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    Enterprise

    Enterprise

    The term Enterprise addresses any non-residential in-building including hotels, convention centres, transport hubs, offices, hospitals and retail outlets. It's not just intended for businesses to

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    Urban

    Urban

    Urban small cells (sometimes also named metrocells) are compact and discrete mobile phone basestations, unobstrusively located in urban areas. They can be mounted on lampposts, positioned on the

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    Rural

    Rural

    A rural small cell is a low power mobile phone base station designed to bring mobile phone service to small pockets of population in remote rural areas. These could be hamlets, small villages or

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