4/15/2009 11:11:00 AM
Mini masts in homes gather pace as femtocell trials are stepped up
Femtocell trials gained momentum last week (7 April), as new standards were published and operators were considering slashing the cost of one unit from £200 to £100.
Industry bodies, the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) and Broadband Forum, outlined the importance of having a consistent standard for operators who plan to develop the technology.
Femtocells serve as mini base stations in homes or offices that connect to the main network, improving coverage and capacity at a reasonable cost.
Many operators believe that femtocells can plug the black spots that will remain in remote and rural areas despite network sharing deals. The technology is also believed to make home 3G broadband up to five times faster.
Most operators are actively looking into developing the technology. T-Mobile is currently running an internal trial with 50 users to test how the technology works in different building conditions.
The operator is not planning a wide-scale launch at present, but could roll out a limited deployment with high value or business clients.
Reducing prices from £200 per unit to £100 is hoped to be a sufficiently low price tag to attract mainstream customers. Operators are also thought to be investigating whether consumers expect other services to be bundled into femtocell packages.
Vodafone is looking into the technology and is running group trials in Spain. Meanwhile, O2’s parent company, Telefónica Europe, is in the advanced stages of trialling femtocell technology. The operator said UK trials are now complete and further tests have now been centralised in Madrid, where advanced testing of ‘live’ technology is ongoing.
An O2 spokeswoman said: ‘Our goal is to understand what is right for Telefónica customers and whether femtocells represent a successful proposition and business case by continuing to fully engage with customer trials.’
She added: ‘Whatever learnings we gain from Spain will be shared across the businesses and commercial services, and rolled out according to consumer demand and technology capability.’
An Orange spokeswoman said: ‘In addition to continually enhancing our network, we also offer a number of in-building coverage solutions and bespoke possibilities for large businesses. Orange is reviewing other options for in-building coverage including femtocells, but has no plans to offer these at present.’