TalkTalk's Inside-Out LTE femtocell

Martin Wren Hilton TalkTalkMartin Wren-Hilton tells me he's never had so much fun. His job as Head of Mobile Innovation at TalkTalk is to figure out how to squeeze a high quality mobile network service from a slither of previously unused spectrum. He presented at MWC on what's involved, their test results to date and how it could evolve.

 

The dilemma choosing between 3G and LTE residential Femtocells

dilemma2015 promises to be the most successful year for residential femtocell shipments, with confident forecasts in the region of 3.5 to 4 million units shipped. We consider what's driving this market segment, the reasons behind strong demand for 3G and how the transition towards LTE will affect it.

 

Vodafone Sure Signal stock shortages highlight what a residential femtocell is really worth

sure-signal-out-of-stockVodafone UK ran out of supplies of their latest Sure Signal femtocell last week – their latest 3rd generation model is sometimes called a femtoplug because it resembles a mains electrical plug. Their online shop posted a "currently unavailable" status on the product, and shops with stock found they were being quickly snapped up or redirected elsewhere.

This led to rumours on the Vodafone forum that the service itself might be discontinued, with one customer being told by customer services that "we've had a top level instruction saying NO more Sure Signal devices are to be supplied". In practice, this was simply a case that there weren't any available in stock at that time.

This week, the online store is back to normal and accepting orders – presumably fresh supplies have been delivered and stocks replenished.

 

Free shakes up the residential femtocell market in France

Freebox with femtocell moduleOn Friday, Free commercially launched a residential femtocell module for their existing Freebox. This will capture 3G calls in the home, providing much better signal quality and offload traffic from macrocells. Since Free, a new mobile operator in France has to pay substantial annual roaming fees to France Telecom, the switch to residential femtocells has a strong business case for them too.

We've been reporting about this plan since two years ago, in July 2011, so it's nice to see it come to fruition, and clearly indicates a execution of a calculated long term strategy which could affect the industry worldwide.

We examine the business drivers, reveal who's behind the design and manufacturing, and consider whether this approach has the same potential to shake the telco industry up as have low cost airlines in the aviation sector.

3G residential femtocells

ALU-9361-Residential-Femtocell-250px The most common type of femtocell is based on 3rd Generation UMTS mobile phone system, which evolved from GSM. This 3G system has been enhanced to include high speed broadband data (called HSPA) at rates of 21Mbps and beyond. A typical 3G residential femtocell is shown on the left.

3G femtocells like this are compatible with operators such as T-Mobile and AT&T in the US, SoftBank in Japan and most mobile operators in the rest of the world. It is this wide adoption of the GSM family of standards (well over 90% of all mobile phones are GSM capable) that makes this the most attractive market for vendors. It also enhances the coverage and capacity of the latest mobile phones in more contained locations.

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    Residential

    Residential

    A significant number of users continue to report poor mobile coverage in their homes. There will always be areas which are uneconomic for mobile operator to reach. They range from rural areas

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    Enterprise

    Enterprise

    The term Enterprise addresses any non-residential in-building including hotels, convention centres, transport hubs, offices, hospitals and retail outlets. It's not just intended for businesses to

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    Urban

    Urban

    Urban small cells (sometimes also named metrocells) are compact and discrete mobile phone basestations, unobstrusively located in urban areas. They can be mounted on lampposts, positioned on the

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    Rural

    Rural

    A rural small cell is a low power mobile phone base station designed to bring mobile phone service to small pockets of population in remote rural areas. These could be hamlets, small villages or

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