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Femtocell Primer

There’s a lot going on this week and next. Both NXTcomm and the WiMAX Forum Global Congress are taking place now, with SCTE following next week. Expect some heavy posting here as I do my best to keep up with all that’s going on.

Before addressing the flood of news, here’s a quick primer with Motorola’s Alan Lefkof on femtocells, which are a hot topic in telecom at the moment. I’ve covered femtocells before (new CDMA femtocell, and region-by-region look at the market), but thought it worth taking a step back to go over the basics. Wondering what a femtocell is? Start here:

Q&A with Alan Lefkof

What exactly are femtocells and how do they work?
Femtocells are low-power, wireless access points that operate in the home or small office to connect standard mobile devices to a wireless operator’s network using residential DSL or cable broadband connections. Essentially, they enhance the wireless signal within the home so that users don’t have to deal with dropped calls or spotty reception, which can happen in home or building environments.

What is Motorola doing in the femtocell arena? Do they currently have any trials going on?
Femtocells can help drive the convergence of fixed and mobile voice and data communications, so our femtocell solutions address everything from the device itself to the remote management of the femtocell. Our femtocell trials are being conducted this year, with commercial launches expected to begin in 2009.

Why would I want a femtocell in my home? What are the benefits?
Consumers who primarily use their mobile phones at home even when they have a fixed line telephone can leverage their existing home broadband connections to enjoy high-speed Internet access with their wireless mobile devices while indoors for seamless communications. They can also enjoy inexpensive high quality voice and data calls without worrying about losing their cell signal once they enter their home.

Service providers and operators have the opportunity to improve user’s wireless experience in the home and this is essential for reducing customer churn and gaining market share – and new revenues. Femtocells also offer a lower cost of delivery for wireless traffic in comparison to the macro cell network and can be used as a means of off-loading backhaul traffic.

This technology could be one of the most exciting developments in home networking since the arrival of Wi-Fi – both are enabling operators to better meet consumer demands for seamless connectivity.

What are some of the current challenges in today’s marketplace for femtocells?
There are a variety of challenges that femtocells face in today’s marketplace — It must perform in a hostile RF environment; it must meet the high expectations of a mature cellular subscriber base; it must integrate seamlessly with existing access networks; it must be capable of being deployed and supported in high volume; it must extract maximum performance from backhaul and it must be capable of being remotely managed without excessive operator effort. Motorola offers this type of centralized remote provisioning, troubleshooting and management through our NBBS device management platform, providing carriers with the service assurance needed to deploy advanced services, such as femtocells, and optimize their networks with confidence.

These “must have” attributes are required for any operator to put in place an end-to-end femtocell solution that will in turn increase ARPU, grow market share, and enable partnerships with wireless service providers.

From both a market and technology perspective, femtocells represent a lot of opportunity; what are some other possibilities you see as 3G becomes more “ubiquitous”?
Femtocells, at their core, are all about delivering seamless communications experiences. The opportunity here is to deliver home networking like never before. For example, adding a 3G radio to a home gateway has numerous points of integration — from laptops accessing the gateway over Wi-Fi to cellphones accessing the gateway over 3G. Better yet, this is all done with a device that has a minimal footprint in your home and can be easily remotely managed.

What are some of the major market drivers for this technology?
Consumers, especially younger consumers, have increased the cell phone usage in their homes and their current indoor coverage is not satisfactory for some wireless networks. In fact, a recent survey we conducted of 1,000 U.S. adults ages 16-27 found that the majority of them – 67 percent – felt “naked” without a functioning cell phone, and we all know someone who uses their cell phone and only their cell phone. So, these consumer needs combined with operators desire to reduce backhaul cost, make for an environment where femtocells become a common household name.

9 Responses

  1. [...] The Femtocell Primer: Media Experiences 2 Go [...]

  2. [...] respondents had never heard of femtocells, which doesn’t come as much of a shock. However, when femtocell technology was explained, more than 40% said they would definitely or probably buy a femtocell-enabled service if offered in [...]

  3. Mari, can you perhaps explain what technology femtocells use? I’m wondering why they can’t just use Wifi, i.e. 802.11b/g/n?

  4. I agreed with you

  5. This is Mickey Papillon from http://www.thecellphonejunkie.com

    If you are looking for folks to review your devices, please contact me at questions@thecellphonejunkie.com as I am definitely interested.

    Thanks for your time.

  6. [...] at Unstrung this week (via Broadband Reports) quotes new research from Heavy Reading on commercial femtocell services. The HR study results jive with some of what I heard back in the spring on femtocell deployments, [...]

  7. [...] something I find particularly interesting. The video above shows a concept demonstration of a CDMA femtocell embedded in a digital photo frame. While we don’t see a lot of femtocell deployments yet, we’ve [...]

  8. [...] MediaExperiences2Go comes a video explaining what a digital picture frame, a cell phone, and a femtocell might have in common, thanks to [...]

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