In an effort to combat weak 3G signals, more and more tier-one mobile operators are turning to femtocells to help boost indoor signal strength
New research from Informa Telecoms & Media has found that tier-one operator commitment to femtocells increased by 50 percent in last 3 months.
The analyst house believes that despite femtocells having been around for a while now, the technology is experiencing the first signs of maturity with several tier-one operators deploying the technology using a variety of business models, in an effort to boost poor indoor mobile phone signals.
The news comes after Alcatel-Lucent recently announced the availability of a “small cell” (femtocell) designed to address the needs of enterprise customers. And last month Vodafone renamed its femtocell device to Sure Signal, as well as dramatically reducing its cost from £160 down to £50.
Informa said that the Vodafone relaunch of its femtocell offering is “realising considerable success in the UK, spearheading the entrance of femtocell services in the European market.”
“Vodafone rebranded the femtocell service to make the proposition clearer to end users while differentiating from their competition by eliminating indoor coverage deadspots,” it added.
According to Informa there are currently 12 service commitments, including nine commercial launches and several ongoing trials, while completed trials are now progressing into deployment plans for several mobile operators. This contrasts with eight femtocell service commitments and six commercial launches in November 2009.
During the last three months it cited French mobile operator SFR, Portuguese operator OPTIMUS and Chinese operator China Unicom, all of which have commercially launched femtocell services. Meanwhile it says that both Japan’s KDDI and France’s free have also committed to the technology.
“The femtocell market is undergoing rapid growth around the world with Asia, North America and Europe now having multiple deployments each,” said Dimitris Mavrakis, Senior Analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media. “Global operator demand for femtocells is clearly undeniable. The reason for this is simple – femtocells allow operators to deliver enhanced coverage at home, leading to an improved user experience that would not be economically viable with traditional network upgrades.”
Femtocells essentially look like a home router, but are designed to give better indoor coverage of 3G mobile phone signals, which can be problematic to obtain when inside the office or home.
Informa said that as a result of growing operator commitment to the technology, all Tier-one equipment vendors have now committed to supporting open standards and actively working on integrating femtocell gateways into their solutions. It also said there has been advances in regulatory frameworks worldwide and cited Japan, where regulations for femtocell installations have been relaxed, and in the United States, where FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has backed femtocells to support mobile broadband capacity.
Looking forward, Informa expects the femtocell market to experience significant growth over the next few years, reaching just under 49 million femtocell access points (FAP) in the market by 2014 and 114 million mobile users accessing mobile networks through femtocells during that year. “Healthy growth is anticipated throughout the forecast period with femtocell unit sales reaching 25 million in 2014 alone,” it said.
This is despite two Trustwave security consultants, who recently uncovered serious vulnerabilities in femtocell devices that can be used to take over the device.