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Femtocell usage rising fast

Research firm IDC believes femtocell users will surpass the 5.7 million mark in Western Europe by the year 2011. Spending in femtocell-enabled services will grow to $900m per annum over the same period.

There remains uncertainty surrounding the technological evolution towards converged networks. IMS has been held up by some as the solution that will provide fully standardised convergent capabilities, but the timescale and cost of implementation has caused increasing concern, while interim solutions such as UMA and femtocells, which solve the problems of a lack of dual-mode handsets, have also appeared but do not provide the type of rich IP-orientated services envisaged by FMC.

The femtocell sales pitch is as follows: they provide a huge increase in capacity because each femtocell has, in theory, the same data capacity as an outside base station, but the cost of delivery is much lower.

“The main benefits [of femtocells] for operators will include improving indoor coverage; freeing macro network capacity; reducing latency, capital, and operational expenditures; enabling flat rate voice and data tariffs at home; migrating users to WCDMA; adding revenue opportunities from bundling fixed and mobile services; and being able to capture whole households and thus contain churn and increase total subscriptions,” said Joao da Silva, senior research analyst at IDC.

According to IDC the major challenges for operators wanting to roll out femtocell-enabled services involve radio planning and management, core network integration, synchronisation, and provisioning. Issues such as cost, end-user subsidies, radio access technologies supported, access controls, the degree of device convergence, customer support, and assuaging public concern about additional exposure to radio waves will also be decisive.

The other major challenge is convincing the public that they need this technology in the home.

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