Femtocell Opinion, comment and reviews

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.

Are Ericsson moderating their position?

Both HSPA and LTE have been their focus in recent years – their RBS6000 cellsite provides 2G/3G and 4G all in the same cellsite and has been very successfully sold to many operators.

In May 2009, they said they had no plans for a 3G femtocell because they didn’t see the business case. They think Wi-Fi would meet demand instead.

As recently as February, they’ve restated this position, commenting that they could review and respond to market needs within 3 months if their assessment changed.

Easter Egg Hunt

At this time of year, children are encouraged to go on an Easter Egg hunt, involving searching for chocolate eggs previously hidden in the garden by well meaning parents. They are usually not too hard to find.

Will Franks, CTO of Ubiquisys, enjoys a similar pastime when visiting trade shows. His chosen object of desire is of course the Ubiquisys femtocell, which appears in a variety of formats on other exhibitor’s booths. He’s even taken a few snapshots to share his findings.

A femtocell on the Ericsson booth – surely a mistake?

One picture on Will’s blog (see bottom of that page) which took me by surprise was that of a femtocell shown on the Ericsson stand at CTIA earlier this month. Both a standalone Ubiquisys and integrated 2Wire Modem/Femtocell box were boldly on display.

What’s going on here?

I wasn’t able to extract any further details from Ubiquisys on this, and Ericsson haven’t made any public statement on the subject.

After a bit of digging on the net, I found details of an agreement made between Ericsson’s mobile broadband devices division and Netgear to supply a  combined Ethernet/Wi-Fi/Femtocell box (which incorporates the Ubiquisys femtocell). The device is enticingly named the MBRN3300E.

My guess is that this might just be the US and/or mobile broadband devices arm of Ericsson doing some market testing, perhaps on the basis that if they got traction then this could be used to justify a change of heart back at HQ in Sweden.

Surely the US femtocell market must be attractive for Ericsson too?

With three national US networks now offering femtocells commercially across the nation (ATT announced they were going national at the show), it’s clear this technology is popular with operators in that region.

Ericsson has been very successful in North America in recent times, winning a huge $5Billion deal to outsource all of Sprint’s mobile network plus supply LTE cellsites to both Verizon and Metro-PCS.

With plenty of industry comment suggesting that small cells are essential to solve the data capacity crisis, all their major RAN competitors offering femtocells (Huawei, Alcatel-Lucent and Nokia-Siemens all offer a femtocell solution - even ZTE announced they were developing a CDMA femtocell using Qualcomm chipsets this month), it’s a technology that can’t be ignored.

Perhaps a  strategic decision hasn’t been made yet, but certainly one to watch.

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Comments   

#1 Josh Adelson said: 
Nice article. I would also point out that Airvana's femtocell was also on display at Ericsson's CTIA stand.
Josh
0 Quote 2010-04-01 22:35
 
#2 ThinkFemtocell said: 
@Josh: Thanks for pointing that out. Presumably this means Ericsson can offer both 3G radio technologies (CDMA and UMTS) to its customers. Since Ericsson already has the major outsourcing deal from Sprint (mentioned in the article), this means it probably is already running aspects of their Airave femtocell service - possibly the largest in operation today with over 100,000 femtocells in active service. And with Sprint having announced Airvana as a 3G femtocell supplier, I could see both companies working together to bring this to market soon.
0 Quote 2010-04-02 19:40
 
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