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Femtos outnumber macrocells in US

Ubiquisys said its new Intel powered small cells will offer new levels of compute power for local caching

Femtocells now outnumber conventional outdoor cell sites in the US, marking a major milestone in the evolution of mobile networks. Conservative estimates suggest there are currently 350,000 femtocells and around 256,000 macrocells in the US. But by March 2011, there are expected to be at least twice as many femtocells as macrocells in the country.

The figures were published by Informa Telecoms & Media in a new quarterly market status report, which revealed that over the past quarter the total number of global femtocell deployments has increased to 17 alongside six further commitments. Since June 2010, the femtocell market has seen a number of important new operator deployments including Telefónica’s mobile arm, Movistar, Everything Everywhere (the UK Orange/T-Mobile joint venture) and Vodafone Greece. Over the same period several operators that are already offering femtocell services have started offering them for free, or at highly discounted rates, as a customer retention measure signifying that the consumer proposition is still evolving.

The Informa Telecoms & Media report will be updated on a quarterly basis and is published free of charge on the Femto Forum’s website

“We are now starting to see practical evidence that femtocells are irrevocably changing the traditional macrocell culture of mobile networks. Whereas today’s networks consist of a few thousand cells, in the future there will be millions – this will have a massive impact on mobile broadband capacity at a time when networks are under increasing strain,” said Dimitris Mavrakis, senior analyst at Informa. “Over the past quarter we’ve also seen more major operators roll out the technology and perhaps more importantly an evolution in the femtocell consumer proposition. Three months ago, only one operator was giving away free femtocells, now there are several showing that femtocells are becoming an important customer retention tool.”

The analyst 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.

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