Femtocells grab spotlight at MWC

Caroline Gabriel/Rethink Wireless
As expected, femtocells are one of the big themes of this year's Mobile World Congress.
 
Operators like Vodafone UK, its JV SFR in France, Softbank in Japan and AT&T in the US are getting serious about HSPA femto deployments in the home, and the industry is looking ahead to 'greater femtocells' - ones that get beyond the living room into enterprises and the great outdoors.
 
Among a host of announcements, many of which we will cover later in the week, the leading silicon supplier for this segment, picoChip, was working hard to maintain its headstart even as Qualcomm and others gear up to enter the market.
 
It announced no fewer than six new customers, many coming from the Taiwanese ecosystem that is so vital to mass adoption, and price competitiveness, of any emerging consumer product.
 
The new customers are Alpha Networks, Argela, Askey, C&S Micro, Contela and Zyxel, all of which will use the UK firm's PC302 picoXcell system-on-chip for HSPA(+).
 
This is designed to reduce cost and time to market for vendors, and now has over 20 adopters including Vodafone's femto supplier Alcatel-Lucent, and AT&T's, Cisco/ip.access.
 
Meanwhile, the femto players are looking ahead to LTE, where there are many indications from operators that tiny cells will play a big part in the strategy.
 
The devices will be used from day one by some carriers - to offload data from the macrocell or to provide indoor coverage in high frequencies like 2.6GHz; to add capacity to deployments in low frequencies like 700MHz; and even as a starting point for greenfield providers, which could then add macro networks later, explained Simon Saunders, chair of the Femto Forum.
 

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