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?
Femtocell Opinion, comment and reviews
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.
I saw this excellent summary data of the US cellular industry published by CTIA (Cellular Telecommuncations Industry Association). Wireless revenues have grown from $100Bn to $150Bn since 2005, around 15% of the global figure. There are some interesting deductions to be made from it.
At current rates, all US landlines will have been disconnected by 2025. Around 25% of homes have cut the cord already, and around 10% are cancelling the service annually - some 700,000 disconnections a month. Despite poor coverage in many areas, there is growing confidence in the availability and reliability of the cellphone service.
At the end of every school year, it’s normal for children to return home with a written report on their effort and attainment. We’ve given marks for the femtocell industry overall, with some suggestions for 2010. We've also revisited our own predictions to see if our forecast turned out as expected. Overall, I’d say the femto industry can claim to have made substantial progress this year, even if this hasn't translated into as many commercially installed units as some had predicted.
I recently announced the 7th commercial network operator launch worldwide, with the news that China Unicom had launched an offer called “3G Inn” available to subscribers in its Northern Provinces. Since then, NTT DoCoMo has formally announced its MyArea femtocell launch for 18th November. But is this being too optimistic and including some soft launches or market trials? With these and many trials in progress around the world, what criteria should define a market launch?
An apocryphal story was reported recently of an iPhone user in New York who wanted to return it and have it repaired because of the large number of voice calls which were failing. On investigation, the store found that there was a 22% call drop rate. However, this wasn't deemed to be particularly unusual for that area and the customer was sent on his way without any change. Wouldn't it have made him a happier customer if he'd been given (or even just able to buy) a femtocell to solve these issues when indoors?
The state of the femtocell market today can be compared to a scene in an action movie, where the large dam has been blown up, the audience is holding its breath waiting for the enormous wall of water to descend, but only a trickle is so far seen to appear.
I've noticed some significant changes in tariff plans offered by some European wireless networks recently. Do they show a different path ahead, and set the direction of things to come?
Being a bit of a femtocell fanatic, I ordered a brand new Vodafone Access Gateway as soon as they were launched. Overall order to activation took just over 2 and a half weeks. I also needed to completely reconfigure my home network for it to work. Some room for improvement there, but once working call quality was good even up to about 30 metres outside the house.
Skype launched an iPhone application today which lets you make and receive Skype calls over WiFi (but not cellular). We have often compared femtocells with UMA, which can also be used to send cellular mobile phone calls over WiFi. Both femtocells and UMA must be provided and managed by your mobile phone network provider. Skype and others provide a third way, installing a VoIP (Voice over IP) application in your phone which bypasses the mobile phone network completely and uses WiFi and the internet to connect your call. Will Skype undermine the business case for femtocells?
Noticeably fewer delegates attended Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last week. I wasn’t there either, so point you to a few writeups from those who were (and some who also weren’t). By all accounts, femtocells were one of the main themes and there was plenty of excitement at the joint Femtozone stand. (The photo is one I took at the event a couple of years ago).
The event is undoubtedly the largest and most important in the global mobile industry. Headline figures of more than 50,000 attendees, keynote speakers from all the major businesses and an extensive range of thousands of exhibitors back this up. All the femtocell vendors will be there, many with both their own stands and participating in the Femto Forum's Femtozone.
There are something like 3.7 Million cell towers (or basestations) worldwide. How long will it take before domestic femtocells reach that number. I’ve estimated that this could happen during 2010, only 18 months from now, by which time the RF landscape of network operators could be radically different. Read more about my assumptions and implications.
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