Femtocell Opinion, comment and reviews

Preparing to uncover femtocells at Mobile World Congress 2009

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.

Four separate events simultaneously

There are actually at least four different events going on simultaneously:

1) Conference. Less than 10% of attendees have conference passes – these are expensive (at some 4,000 Euros or more). A range of high profile speakers deliver their view on the market. There are multiple concurrent presentation tracks during different times of the day. Operators are more favoured as speakers than vendors; straight product pitches are frowned upon. As with any conference, sponsorship helps with a speaking slot.

2) Analyst briefings. Vendors are keen to ensure their message gets out and that their products and services are highly visible. Extra effort is made to brief analysts on the latest products and features, including some nicer off-site meals and entertainment. Specially arranged briefings with senior marketing and product types are common. This makes for a very busy time for analysts – but they do get some benefits.

3) Exhibition. The main event. Many large halls with endless stands, enticing you to come in and find out more. Some of the larger stands have their own meeting rooms and bar. Smaller companies have a simple cubicle with a few posters. Startups and one-man companies may not have a stand at all, and just roam the event looking for opportunities to network.

4) Virtual Tour. Many potential attendees will be staying at home this year. There is a much wider audience watching what’s going on, looking at the announcements, and trying to filter through the noise. As with those watching sports events remotely, sometimes they have a better overview of the whole show.

This year many companies are scaling down their attendance. As the major event in mobile worldwide, every company wants a presence – but it doesn’t have to be as large as before. Last year, there were a couple of companies in particular who took a different view. Apple (who have revolutionised mobile data services through their iPhone) didn’t turn up. Google (who also seek  change through their Android phone and mobile services such as Mobile Search) just had a meeting room, hidden away on a remote hall.

So what would an attendee do to learn more about femtocells at this year’s show?

Plan ahead: Time is always short at these events – there is so much to see over such a wide area. Look through the list of companies or events you’d like to see or visit.

Book appointments: If you want to meet or talk to anyone individually, it’s worth making an appointment. Obviously, it’s polite to ensure you keep it.

Take advantage of free seminars/briefings etc: If you aren’t able to attend the main conference briefings (or even if you are), there are several free briefings scheduled which you can attend. These include:

  • Individual session by some of the major vendors at the larger stands – you usually need to visit the stand to get specific details.
  • There are also a few organised by the GSM Association – I’ve found that you can apply for these online before the event. Depending on who’s applied, you may be allowed entrance (generally operators get preference). Look on their website for specific details.

 

What’s specific about femtocells at this year’s show?

The Femto Forum has organised a special area, called a Femtozone , where many of their 100 members will be showing off state of the art femtocells and answering questions about them. This includes a program of presentations and talks by many of the industry’s leading figures.

Undoubtedly, there will be a lot of emphasis on the hot issues around femtocells today, such as interference of the macrocellular network and the operator’s business case.

I’d strongly recommend that you look through the draft program and add the most interesting ones to your diary.

What won’t be prominent?

Despite renaming the show from 3GSM to Mobile World Congress, attempting to capture other wireless and mobile technologies, the main focus of the show is still around the GSM family (GSM, EDGE, UMTS, HSPA and LTE). Don’t expect to find too much about CDMA or WiMAX – there will be some vendors with those products, but it’s not mainstream here.

And for those not attending?

Press releases go into overdrive during MWC, with almost every attending company issuing at least one. The difficulty is filtering out the “signal from the noise”. Undoubtedly there will be some high profile announcements, so expect to hear about standards compliant calls, new contract wins and similar announcements.

Personally, I’d publish a press release outside the MWC week (maybe that’s the reason for this week’s TDC femtocell trial by NEC/Ubiquisys amongst others), if you want it to be more visible.

You’ll also see updates from the analysts (and bloggers) attending the event. If you find a good report/insight, then let me know (or add a comment below).

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