Femtocell deployments may have doubled to 19 since last year’s Mobile World Congress but the news that seems to be causing the most excitement among members of the Femto Forum is the growth in enterprise interest in the technology. “Last year, all commercial femtocell deployments were residential, now more than a third are enterprise-focused,” said Femto Forum Chairman Simon Saunders, adding that commitments to launch the technology have tripled to 34 in the past year.
Saunders said that while consumer devices are following a clear ultra-small form factor, such as USB sticks, increased operator interest in enterprise and metropolitan femtocells means the devices are also growing in size. “Femtocell technology is evolving to support a wider range of applications,” he said, “they’re becoming a key part of smart offload, providing a natural extension of the existing network.”
Femtocells are increasingly forming a key component in operator network deployment as providers look to meet exploding mobile capacity requirements; according to Femtocell Forum representatives at this year’s MWC, small cell technologies will play a vital role in complementing macro network coverage and capacity, extending 3G wireless coverage and capacity in high-traffic public spaces and also within the latency-intolerant enterprise, where some of the heaviest data usage occurs.
With this in mind, Forum members Alcatel-Lucent, ip.access and Ubiquisys are all looking to extend their portfolio into the enterprise space. Chris Cox, Director of Marketing at ip.access said that, for 2011, the company will focus on bringing the benefits of femtocell technology to the enterprise while retaining two-way handovers and full service continuity in an enterprise context. Self-organising networks and outdoor models that can bring extra capacity to metropolitan environments form a singnificant part of a range that includes Alcatel-Lucent’s newly-launched 3G small cells as well as the second generation of its 9363 Enterprise Cell.