Femto Forum wins backing of big guns

James Middleton

November 6, 2007

2 Min Read
Femto Forum wins backing of big guns

The Femto Forum, an industry body promoting femtocell technology, has had a busy few months. When it launched in July, the big question was whether the major equipment vendors would sign up to the organisation. But with a member base that has gone from seven to 40 in three months, that question has been answered.

Simon Saunders, chairman of the Femto Forum, told telecoms.com that he was satisfied the Forum had won the support of the industry.

“Smaller players pioneered the movement but we also need the bigger vendors on board,” he said. New members include Alcatel-Lucent, NEC, Nokia Siemens Networks, Motorola, and ZTE, with a few more of the big names on the cards. But there has also been strong support from the operator community with the likes of Bharti Airtel, Bouygues Telecom, Carphone Warehouse Networks, Orascom Telecom, and Telefonica O2 also joining the ranks.

“The operator input is driven more by strategy than technology,” Saunders said. “Femtocells are seen as having a strong role in the network, especially to help deepen coverage.”

Femtocells are low power wireless access points that operate in licensed spectrum to connect standard mobile devices to a mobile operator’s network using residential DSL or cable broadband connections. Femtcells are more targeted at the domestic market than picocells, they are intended to be used in the home and will typically be connected to the consumer’s fixed internet connection.

The Forum is now actively working with operators to ensure that members’ products interoperate and meet the necessary demands to ensure successful widespread deployments. The Forum has created four working groups to focus respectively on: standardisation, including radio and physical aspects of the technology; network issues, including interoperability; regulation; and marketing and promotion of business models.

The Forum will also take a lead in the education consumers about the technology, particularly in the current climate of confusion about potential health risks posed by mobile networks. Risks which have been largely debunked by research.

Andy Tiller, VP of marketing at pico and femtocell manufacturer ip.access, said that there is now a huge potential market for femtocells.

“Picocells have been around since 2002, largely used for IP backhaul in GSM networks. It’s been a fairly niche business until now, with about 30 operators worldwide using the technology,” he said. “Originally it was seen as a solution for indoor coverage issues but it is being increasingly seen as a useful tool for high traffic areas, as a way to increase capacity.”

Tiller said that femtocells are seen as increasingly useful tools for optimising 3G networks, where 3G has greater difficulty in penetrating buildings than 2G and also struggles with the allocation of resources between all users in a particular cell. “Picocells work out at about half the price of upgrading the actual network in any one location,” he said.

About the Author(s)

James Middleton

James Middleton is managing editor of telecoms.com | Follow him @telecomsjames

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