Slow femtocell uptake temporary as standard emerges

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Although the recession is being blamed for blighting the uptake of femtocells, several indicators are emerging that suggest the technology has far from missed the boat. Inevitably, enterprise deployments still look to be a long way off as organizations cut back on spending and are increasingly reluctant to invest in bleeding edge technologies. That's understandable since the enterprise applications of femtocells remain unclear and issues such as their appropriateness in comparison to picocells and other indoor coverage solutions continue to be open to debate. Nevertheless, the doom scenario of femtocell technology being consigned to the shelf and forgotten for the foreseeable future seems not to be occurring.

Analysts at ABI Research reckon the slowdown in the uptake of femtocells will be only temporary and, although the firm has revised its estimates downwards to project just under one million shipments this year, senior analyst, Aditya Kaul, has identified that vendors appear to be gearing up for a big push and thinks that femtocells remain attractive because investment can be undertaken in stages and with relatively low entry costs and therefore is easier to justify in the tight financial market.

Other indicators bear ABI's view out. Three mobile communication industry groups have recently announced they have teamed up to create the world's first standard for the deployment and development of femtocells. The 3GPP, the Femto Forum and the Broadband Forum have published a standard that covers network architecture, radio and interference, security, femtocell management and provisioning. It is anticipated that the standard will pave the way for large-scale production of standardized femtocells and enable interoperability between different vendors' access points and femto gateways. Removing the interoperability disconnect currently caused by proprietary systems will be a key step in bringing femtocells to the enterprise.

Further momentum has also been demonstrated by Sony, Toshiba and Qualcomm joining the Femto Forum. Although predominately focused on consumer applications such as embedding femtocells into televisions and set-top boxes, the move will help to raise the profile of femtocells and the involvement of Qualcomm is likely to involve it working to increase volumes and cut costs for chipsets which will also have enterprise applications.

Stewart Baines

I've been writing about technology for nearly 20 years, including editing industry magazines Connect and Communications International. In 2002 I co-founded Futurity Media with Anthony Plewes. My focus in Futurity Media is in emerging technologies, social media and future gazing. As a graduate of philosophy & science, I have studied futurology & foresight to the post-grad level.