Japan’s SoftBank first to launch 3G femtocells

Japanese operator SoftBank is to score a world first in January, when it becomes the first service provider to launch 3G femtocells in a commercial capacity.

SoftBank, Japan’s third placed carrier behind NTT DoCoMo and KDDI, said it will offer 3G femtos from January 2009 using kit from UK-based Ubiquisys and a supporting IMS core from NEC.

Femtocells are low power wireless access points used to connect standard mobile devices to a mobile operator’s network using residential DSL or cable broadband connections. They are targeted at the domestic market, intended to be used in the home and will typically be connected to the consumer’s fixed internet connection.

Although US operator Sprint was the world’s first and only (to date) operator to introduce femtocells to its customers, they are only for voice services. The Japanese deployment will mark the first time 3G units have been deployed in the wild.

Commenting on the announcement, Chris Gilbert, CEO of Ubiquisys said: “The Japanese market has always led the world in mobile technology so it comes as little surprise that SoftBank is the first operator to deploy 3G femtocells. By quite literally turning their mobile network inside out, they are in the process creating a mobile broadband network with vastly more capacity and coverage than anything seen before.”

In related news, NEC also said Monday that it will contribute strategic funding to FMC shop Kineto Wireless, to further support its drive into the femto space.

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