Will Franks - femtocell pioneer

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30 July 2009

The incredible shrinking femtocell?

Commercial femtocell launches in the US, in Japan and in the UK show that the market is really starting to take off. Others are in the pipeline. This is significant for the femtocell industry as moving technologies from lab trials to launch is a well known hurdle that many don’t make it over. So the future for femtocells is looking pretty promising right now.

Coverage-challenged households and businesses are where the mobile operators have started with their femtocell offers. Many plan follow-on services to encourage the take-up of data services, homezone tariff packages, and bundles including broadband, IPTV etc. This will make femtocell adoption by consumers genuinely mainstream.

However, there are evolutions needed to achieve this and I believe they are taking place as I write.

The first is cost. Femtocells need to reach a price point so that mobile operators can offer the benefits of femtos with almost every service bundle and include them in every integrated access device or set-top box. Manufacturing in volume will help. Designing femtocells using the economics of the consumer electronics industry (rather than as network infrastructure) is essential, and has always been our approach to our stand-alone femtocells. Chip Integration and system optimisation through smart software also have a big part to play.

The second is form factor. Femtocells must be made smaller, they must run cooler and they must consume less electricity so that the integration into almost any home or enterprise device becomes technically optimised as well as meeting the cost needs mentioned above. This is happening today – as an example I’ve included a picture of one of our latest femtocell products, which is about the size of a credit card and uses just a few watts of power.

The physical characteristics are in the end a small but important part of creating a commercial femtocell. What enables this, and by far and away the most significant aspect, is the innovation, intellectual property and real deployment knowledge locked in the software. The Independent’s Sean O'Grady yesterday reported on Ubiquisys’ inclusion in the UK Government’s Advanced Manufacturing paper. He hit the nail on the head - “Their value lies not in the assembly of a few bits of plastic and metal, but again in that embedded intellectual value.”