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).
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.
One of the common concerns about femtocells is that they may use up a lot of broadband internet service, either exceeding a basic allowance or causing additional charges. Let's analyse this with some rough calculations to bring some reality to the debate.
There are something like 3.7 Million cell towers (or basestations) worldwide. How long will it take before domestic femtocells reach that number. I’ve estimated that this could happen during 2010, only 18 months from now, by which time the RF landscape of network operators could be radically different. Read more about my assumptions and implications.
January 2009 has seen a flurry of announcements about femtocell product launches in the US. Sprint has been offering its Airave femtocell since September 2008 and now Verizon Wireless has launched its Wireless Network Extender using the same underlying product. ATT Wireless, not to be outdone, has had a flurry of press activity around its so-called 3G microcell, which is still some months away from availability. We've looked at the overall picture, compared the various offerings and drawn some conclusions.