Femtocell Opinion, comment and reviews
I’ve been reviewing comment feedback on various blogs and news sites regarding Sprint and Verizon’s femtocell offerings. I’ve noticed several clearly differentiated clusters amongst this feedback, and believe these needs to be used and acted on by operator’s marketing teams.
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 2009. If it’s bad news, best for the child to immediately disappear up to study arduously – if it’s good, then celebrations all round. I’d say the femto industry can give itself a well deserved “pat on the back” and raise a glass for its achievements this year.
Following our recent article on the Femtocell Product lifecycle, I thought it would be useful to map the various vendors against this and identify some of the trends and various groupings.
We picked out several key groups in the lifecycle:
chipset vendors,femtocell vendors, femtocell gateway, systems integrators and broadband/DSL modems vendors.
Femtocell technology works. Costs are still high, needing mass market adoption to achieve the required price point. The business case for the operator looks good. But the industry is still trying to nail down the compelling reasons for the customer to buy it.
How easy is it to buy femtocell-like service today? I thought I'd enquire about Orange's "Unique" service which offers similar functionality using to femtocells, using WiFi in your house and a special dual-mode WiFi/Cellular phone. My experience didn't make me rush to sign up, and flags up several issues which femtocell operators will need to address in their sales and marketing operations.
Motorola executives are said to be considering alternative packaging formats for femtocells. Combining a picture frame with a femtocell could help improve its positioning and performance. Rather than being tucked away in a closet or in the basement, it would be given prime location in the main living areas.
What other packaging formats might be worthwhile considering?
Orange proudly announced they were first to market with a dual-mode 3G UMTS/WiFi phone last week. Available immediately in France, the service will be rolled out to Poland, Spain and UK later this year. Is this just another dual mode cellular/WiFi phone - or does it incorporate the technical changes within the network infrastructure which improve data throughput, latency and add a couple of extra services?
Femtocells, like many new technologies, are maturing and overcoming the technical obstacles which have arisen during trials and testing. Increasing intelligence and self-tuning of these smartboxes ensures minimum disruption of the existing macrocellular network. RF propagation studies have shown the impact and feasibility of high traffic levels in areas of heavy takeup.
In a recent interview, Lauren Town, Head of Marketing at Orange, said the operator was not looking to replace its current Unik WiFi UMA service with 3G femtocells. What is the likely evolutionary path for existing UMA services and can they co-exist with femtocells?
I’ve been struck recently by the number of places offering free WiFi these days. Pubs, cafés, hotels, guest houses – why even MacDonalds has equipped over 15,000 stores globally with Free WiFi . In the future, will these establishments advertise femtocell access with your coffee and croissant (or burger)?
Will femtocells be consumed into a central Mega-Hub for each household? We are already seeing products which combine broadband modems, routers, print servers and femtocells in one box - is more consolidation likely?
Intellectual Property is the “other meaning” of the term IP (sometimes also known as IPR for Intellectual Property Rights). How will this "tax" apply to femtocells and derived products? [Note: Earlier link error fixed - click through to view the article]
An important part of the business case for femtocells for operators is to offload their macrocellular network, so they don’t need to invest as much in their basestations. If a large part of the network traffic is handled locally by femtocells and connected through customer’s own broadband internet, then significantly less investment will be required. Less additional radio equipment on each cellsite, less backhaul (transmission from the cellsites to the operator’s main switching centres) and potentially reducing the need for additional sites in heavily congested areas.