Prof. Simon Saunders is Chairman of the Femto Forum. He reports on their progress against original objectives, looks ahead at technical standards for Release 9, and gives some insight into a new initiative to open up applications inside femtozones.
We spoke with Sudhir Tangri, Assistant VP Strategic Marketing from Aricent, who provide software, consultancy and SI to vendors and operators. He believes that the 3G femtocell BoM cost will drop next year to $50, suggests that it’s the applications not devices which will drive demand for LTE and believes LTE femtocells are the most appropriate way to rollout this new 4G radio capacity.
There is a lot of industry momentum building up for LTE femtocells. Much of this is from the vendor community, who have invested to create the chipsets and technology software platforms which enable it. For example, picoChip have already developed and proven an LTE femtocell prototype last year using the emerging standards.
I've read several articles recently articulating that mobile broadband networks are quickly filling up with traffic and thus affecting the end-user experience. The dramatic reduction in pricing (1000 times cheaper), wide availability of USB data dongles and 3G service means that mobile broadband is moving from an occasional outdoor/on-the-road access to being marketed as a direct competitor for DSL wireline broadband at similar or even lower prices.
There are concerns that the networks aren't geared up to take the strain (particularly of streaming video) and are actively looking at alternative ways to satisfy their customer demands. One example is where the Apple iTune downloads to their iPhone are restricted to WiFi rather than over the mobile broadband network.
The thirst for mobile data has never been stronger. Data revenues from several operators now exceed $10Bn annually and continue to grow. The adoption of mobile broadband has been rapid, particularly in Europe, where prices have been driven down to $20-30/month or less.
Indeed, a survey by the WiFi alliance found that 48% of students would give up beer rather than WiFi.
Data will grow by 200 to 700 times in the next 10 years
Self-installation is all the rage now. Broadband internet, TV, cordless phones, computers...... all "plug and play". Instead of sending a technician round to your home to install, setup and configure the equipment, its simply delivered to your door or collected from the shop. This has enabled dramatically reduced prices and rapid growth in these markets.
The cable industry is still somewhat different, sending a technician out to install your set-top box even when you've just taken moved in and are reconnecting to the same cable service.
Femtocells are very much in the former category, being designed for self installation to keep costs down and we can expect this approach to work in at least 90% of cases.
Softbank Japan announced this week that it plans to launch a femtocell product in January 2009 and has awarded a supply contract to NEC. Unlike mainstream femtocell developments, this uses a different network architecture with calls made and received using the SIP internet protocol which is commonly used to handle Voice over IP (VoIP) calls rather than the existing mobile network core networks via the Iu interface. Why the different approach?
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)?