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?
What are the main components of a femtocell and who makes them? When building femtocell access points, there are several vendors and product types in the foodchain. Here we look at each building block and consider the main players in each area.
What do enterprise IT department managers think about deploying femtocells? How does this compare with using a Wi-iFi based scheme such as UMA? We've been discussing this with a Telecom Services Planner at a medium sized US company, who is also an enthusiast for UMA. Network security, handset choice, provisioning and the ease of switching between network providers are some of the topics we've covered.
Shlomo Gadot is CEO of Percello, an Israeli startup company designing a low-cost, high performance femtocell 3G W-CDMA baseband processor chip. He describes how he is working with a team of mobile handset chip designers to develop a dedicated 3G femtocell chip, believes femtocells will be dramatically cheaper in the near future, gives some market forecasts, industry predictions and even tells us what’s keeping him awake at night.
Orange/France Telecom is a leading proponent of UMA, which uses special dual-mode cellular/WiFi phones to make and receive calls over WiFi as well as the outdoor cellular network. Lauren believes UMA offers many of the same customer benefits as femtocells, and provides insights into what types of customers have bought UMA, how they use it, why it is not promoted for roaming and why Orange are investigating femtocells for enterprise customers. Bringing UMA to market has also highlighted issues for operators merging their fixed/mobile services (and operations), which all highlight lessons for potential femtocell operators.
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).