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.
Many digital and software products these days include an API (Application Programming Interface) which allows 3rd parties and/or the customer to extend and adapt the standard functionality. Could femtocells provide a standard API and what would it offer?
I’ve been reviewing comment feedback on various blogs and news sites regarding Sprint and Verizon’s femtocell offerings. I’ve noticed several clearly differentiated clusters amongst this feedback, and believe these needs to be used and acted on by operator’s marketing teams.
Most 3G UMTS operators have been allocated 10Mhz of paired frequency spectrum (i.e. 10MHz uplink+10MHz downlink), typically in the 2100Mhz range allocated worldwide. This is used with two separate paired WCDMA carriers of 5Mhz each. Wideband CDMA differs from the original mobile CDMA system by using fewer, wider frequency range transmissions – CDMA typically uses carriers with a spread of 1.5Mhz.
Apart from the name, this provides benefits in poor or difficult transmission areas (e.g. built up, urban areas). WCDMA also differs by not requiring the basestation transmissions to be phase synchronised with each other (I think this was to get around a Qualcomm patent), making it more complex but in the long term easier to manage.
It may strike you as odd to think about how to turn femtocells off or dispose of them when the industry is doing its best to roll them out and turn them on. But every product has a lifecycle, and that includes working out what to do when the customer doesn’t pay up, or when the product reaches the end of its natural lifecycle. This wasn’t done when mobile phones first started being upgraded, leaving many unused in drawers or thrown into landfill refuse rather than being recycled.
A feature required by potential femtocell operators, location lock prevents a femtocell from being moved to a new location without the owning network operator’s awareness and permission. We explain the justification for this feature and technical implementation options.
Will Franks, CTO of Ubiquisys (an independent femtocell access point vendor), is pleased that the Femto Forum has given smaller femto companies a voice in the femto standards. He notes that operators have been largely silent on the state of their femtocell trials and market launch plans, suggests we’ll see “hard launches” during 1H2009 addressing many go-to-market business processes and indicates that some operators are choosing between enterprise and domestic markets for femtocells.