The Femto Forum has grown from a group established by seven small femtocells vendors into a 38-member telecom clubhouse now including leading cellcos and vendors. Femto Forum chairman Dr Simon Saunders tells senior reporter Fiona Chau why the forum is vital for the development of interoperable femto technologies and how femtocells will transform the industry
Wireless Asia: What is the role and scope of Femto Forum‾ What are the primary objectives the forum aims to achieve in the next 12 months‾
Simon Saunders: The founding principle of the forum was to prevent fragmentation and encourage a cooperative working environment for vendors and operators. The cellular industry has seen the drawbacks of technology fragmentation before when a war erupted between GSM and CDMA that still means many consumers can't use their phone abroad.
The key to ensuring femtocell technology reaches its potential is for the forum to encourage all the various vendors to collaborate to ensure their solutions are interoperable and meet the expectations of operators. In addition, the forum needs to lobby regulators for various alterations to policies and to ensure common marketing strategies are adopted across the femtocell eco-system.
How does the inclusion of both mobile operators and major telecom equipment vendors help promote and accelerate the development and commercial deployment of femtocell‾
To adopt common solutions that are interoperable, it is paramount that the major vendors are all on board. And if vendors want to develop a successful device, they need to listen to what the operators want, so the forum must have a strong operator membership.
What impact are femtocells having on the telecom industry‾
Femtocells dramatically alter how mobile operators roll out their networks. Femtocells provide mobile coverage in the home, use the subscriber's broadband connection to send the traffic back to the operator and come in the form of a box about the size of a Wi-Fi router. By deploying femtocells operators can provide better coverage while significantly lowering their costs. In the longer term, femtocells mean operators will not need to invest so much in their outdoor networks. Femtocells give subscribers perfect cellular coverage and faster mobile broadband in the home as well as a more competitive voice and data tariff and a range of new services.
What are the key benefits for operators‾
Femtocells solve the major in-building coverage issue facing operators. Radio signals from mobile networks do not penetrate walls very well, especially at higher frequencies such as those used in 3G and Wimax networks. This means that without indoor base stations mobile operators must roll out significantly more outdoor base stations to provide good coverage in consumers' homes.