Will Franks - femtocell pioneer

Femtocell Pioneer has moved to a new home!
Thanks for visiting - all my femto pioneer posts are now appearing on The Femtocell Blog - I look forward to seeing you there - Will Franks

10 December 2010

SoftBank Japan Pioneers Satellite Femtocell for Rural Coverage

A couple of weeks ago at a conference in Thailand, Yoshihito Shimazaki, Deputy Division Head of the Mobile Solution Division at SoftBank Mobile in Japan, presented a revolutionary new satellite femtocell solution for rural coverage.

You can see highlights of the presentation, plus photos of the deployed femtocells at [Ubiquisys | The Femtocell Blog]

07 December 2010

Ubiquisys Snap-on Femtocell Device: A New Way to Integrate with your Home Gateway

Until now, all deployed femtocells have been supplied as separate devices, even though femtocells integrated into home gateways have been available for some time. Now that SFR in France has announced a snap-on femtocell module as an accessory for its latest home gateway, it’s a good time to examine this new concept in femtocell design.

View our infographic to get a better idea of exactly what a snap-on Ubiquisys femtocell device is and what it can do...[see it full size at Ubiquisys | the femtocell blog]

03 December 2010

What is an enterprise femtocell?

Unlike residential femtocells, which are now being rolled out across the world, enterprise femtocells are still the subject of much anticipation, mixed with confusion and misunderstanding. So here’s an attempt to shed some light on this new application for femtocell technology...

[Read more at Ubiquisys | The Femtocell Blog]

02 December 2010

WiFi Hotspot Smartphone Hack: An Opportunity For Femtocells?

Last week the BBC’s Rory Cellan-Jones announced that since being hacked, he was turning off WiFi on his iPhone. This article not only illustrates the dangers of WiFi hotspots for unsuspecting users, it also explains the emerging use of femtocells for simple yet secure public hotspots. As Rory himself states.....
[read more at Ubiquisys | The Femtocell Blog]

19 November 2010

Femtocells at Mobile Asia Congress

 This week saw the great and the good of the Asian mobile industry gather in Hong Kong for Mobile Asia Congress 2010. At this year’s event femtocells were again a hot topic with SoftBank Mobile discussing their market-leading free femtocell offering and NEC announcing that it has a femtocell trial in progress in India.

LTE was also a central topic at the show – with Hong Kong operator CSL announcing the roll-out of the network and a raft of other carriers announcing plans on deployments. At Ubiquisys we believe that femtocells will play a central role in these deployments, allowing operators to deliver targeted coverage for initial roll-outs and help offload the exponential growth in data traffic.

At the show we met with a wide range of operators and partners, discussing how our Femto-Engine system provides software to power the free femtocell model for mobile operators and provides hardware designs to consumer electronics manufacturers to incorporate femto functionality into a wider range of devices and form factors.

Ubiquisys-powered femtocells are the only ones that dynamically adapt to the constantly changing 3G radio environment.  This not only eliminates interference problems, but ensures a positive user experience that today's passive femtocells cannot match.  We clearly need to do a better job of getting this message out though, because the number one femtocell concern I heard at the event was.....interference.

As always the event was incredibly valuable and I look forward to attending again next year!

[Guest post by Richard Staveley, VP Business Development at Ubiquisys]

02 November 2010

Broadcom acquisition confirms Percello's femtocell market share credentials

We at Ubiquisys were delighted by Broadcom's announcement to acquire Percello, the UMTS femtocell System on a Chip (SoC) supplier. 

Firstly it underwrites Percello's credibility by removing the concerns mobile operators have expressed over the supply chain aspects of boutique Private Equity backed SoC companies.

Secondly, the capability Broadcom brings to the mix, particularly in the consumer space, has the potential to significantly enhance the existing Percello femtocell SoC offering.

We at Ubiquisys selected Percello for our second generation of femtocell devices back in 2008, having done a thorough analysis of all femtocell SoC suppliers, and having concluded Percello offered the best in class SoC for UMTS femtocells in terms of performance, price and energy footprint. For our first generation of femtocells we used picoChip's SoC.

To produce a credible market share number for SoC in the UMTS femtocell sector the easiest approach is to look at the major deployments underway in US, Japan and Europe. Knowing the market well, our assessment is that Percello currently has approximately 50% of the UMTS SoC femtocell market.  This is likely to rise in 2011 even with the entrance in to this sector of Qualcomm.

Looking forward to LTE, pretty much all of the world-class System on a Chip suppliers have recognised the importance and exponential growth opportunities of the femtocell sector, so we can look forward to a healthy and competitive landscape in the coming years.

08 October 2010

ABI Research Femtocell Vendor Matrix 2010 (excerpt)

Ubiquisys retains its position as the leading femtocell access point vendor.

20 September 2010

After the HubBub, femto market continues to take off with ABI Research’s top-rated vendors

Last week Airvana announced that it has discontinued its WCDMA (UMTS) femtocell development programme in order to focus on its CDMA products.
Some might be surprised by this – after all, the WCDMA femtocell market is taking off right now, and most analysts forecast explosive growth over the next few years. 

Personally, I wasn’t surprised.  It takes a huge amount of intellectual capital, development and real-world testing to create a commercial femtocell. The size of this challenge has been consistently underestimated by most of the mobile industry.  And at some point you need real commercial rollouts underway to make revenue (at Ubi we reckon we are ~50% of WCDMA femto shipments in 2010).

In September 2009 I posted a “who makes what” article  setting-out that despite the hype, there were just four commercially deployed WCDMA femtocell vendors. One year on, and we are looking at a sharp rise in shipments and deployments, but all from the same the same four vendors:
  1. Ubiquisys
  2. Alcatel Lucent
  3. Huawei
  4. Cisco (using ip.access technology)
This also just happens to be the ranking of vendors in the recent Femto Vendor Matrix from ABI Research.  All of these companies have been doing intensive femtocell development for at least four years, and all have been working with their operator customers for at least three years. They also have in common 3G Radio Access and Core Network expertise as well as significant knowledge and experience working with mobile handsets.

At first glance, Ubiquisys might look out of place heading a group of major network providers. But appearances can be deceptive - in addition to its femto leadership, Ubi works alongside a number of powerful femto solution providers, such as Nokia Siemens, NEC and Ericsson.

15 July 2010

Femtocells held back by poorly informed commentators?

For those of you who haven’t seen this article, it’s worth reading if just to see how badly informed the interviewee from Ericsson is.  He comments:
"The big challenge around femto is partly the spectrum planning and use," Leins said. "As soon as you introduce a signal [to] noise ratio you start shrinking the cell size, which has the effect of reducing your throughput to customers, and it's a spiral."
Femtocells generally are 3G based and therefore use CDMA; a coding scheme designed to work with a frequency reuse of 1 so by design neighbouring cell sites impact signal to noise ratios.  This occurs in 3G Macro networks just as it does when 3G microcells, picocells or femtocells are added to a macro overlay network.  The key is managed and constructive interference.  Large Macro base stations as well as the smaller microcells and picocells achieve this by being manually planned and installed by Mobile Operators to provide coverage and capacity.  What is different with femtocells is that they have been designed to continuously monitor their radio environment and adapt their power outputs (and that of the connected mobile phones) so that they can offer service to consumers without the need for skilled Mobile Operator planning/install.  Four years ago this was theory.  Since them the theory has been successfully proven and deployments of femtocells this year alone will be way over the 1 million mark Worldwide.  These deployments are in both dedicated Carrier (dedicated frequencies) and Shared Carrier (shared frequencies with the 3G Macro network).
I am sure Mr Leins is too smart to seriously dismiss femtocells or even question their effectiveness – the evidence to the contrary is overwhelming.  All the study work required to show their technical effectiveness within existing macro deployments is available from the Femtoforum and 3GPP, not to mention the Vendors that have deployed them.  For the practical I would refer Mr Leins to AT&T, Vodafone Group, SoftBank, SFR and many other of his company’s existing customers who have mass market femtocell deployments well underway.  

For Australians I’m sure Femtocells, whether for Consumers, Enterprises, Metro or Rural deployments, will in time become widespread as they are in so many other countries.   We have seen that when it comes to femtocell rollouts, all markets have different competitive pressures and therefore different triggers to start deployments.  What has become very clear from the leading markets is that customer demand is high – it’s therefore in the Mobile Operators hands to step up to meeting their customers’ needs.

27 May 2010

Femtocells – the new option for macro offload

In a post on the problem with WiFi-based offload, Dean Bubley makes an interesting point:
“If I walk 5 minutes from home to my local tube station, I need to switch off WiFi temporarily, if I actually want to use mobile data - otherwise I have a constant stream of pop-ups from the connection manager on-screen, and no reliable connection.
It probably wouldn't help with a high density of femtocells either, until there's a reliable way of doing femto-to-femto handoff as you walk down the street.”
I’m delighted to say that help is at hand - femto-to-femto hand-off does work reliably.  But as Dean suggests, it’s not a simple scenario.  There are some specific challenges in the street environment he describes, notably interference, battery life, handover and signalling implications.  This introduces the need for additional sophistication if the solution is to be kept simple and practical.  Fortunately UMTS is better suited to addressing these than WiFi. 

We at Ubiquisys implemented a femtocell solution a couple of years back that covered the majority these requirements for Enterprise deployments, e.g. femto-femto handover, interference mitigation/self-optimisation, battery life preservation, signalling optimisation.  Two additional challenges in the street scenario compared to Enterprise is that there is no single LAN for femto-femto communication, nor can the femtos necessarily “see” each other (in the radio sense) to know who their neighbours are.   The good news is there is an innovative  solution to these too but I’m going to keep you all guessing.

Obviously, the femtocells in the street scenario would have to run in open mode to benefit all customers.  This brings challenges of its own over standard “closed mode” femtocells in terms of performance, sustained load handling and dynamic load balancing.  The only commercial deployment of open mode femtocells is SoftBank in Japan - which ooh I forgot to mention is Ubiquisys.

14 May 2010

Softbank Launches Free Femtocells and ADSL

As I mentioned they would a little while ago, SoftBank began accepting orders for free femtocells this week. This in itself is a ground-breaking industry first. The operator, however, has gone one better by providing free ADSL connections too.

Free really does change everything, especially the consumer proposition. Instead of selling an accessory to fix coverage problems (attractive only to a minority), here is a premium experience indoors for all, an integral part of the operator’s brand promise.

While many people expected femtocells to be eventually offered for free, the move to offer an ADSL connection as well is unprecedented. This offer has shaken up the business case for femtocells and will be sure to accelerate their adoption.

20 April 2010

Ubiquisys Femtocell Technology Map

This is the Ubi femtocell technology map that has been doing the rounds over the past week or so (thanks Zahid Ghadialy).

Although the tube map format was just a bit of fun, it does neatly illustrate the common sense behind the Ubiquisys Femto-Engine system.

Ubiquisys is the only femtocell company where the Software (see the blue Technology line and the orange Applications line on the map) is separated from the Hardware (the pink Device Innovation line).
  • It means we focus on software, the elements such as continuous self-organisation that make our femtocells unique, and which encapsulate our extensive deployment experience. That’s how we make a better femtocell.
  • It means we can share our hardware expertise, providing manufacturing partners with a fast track to femtocell production, but without the associated investment in complex femto software, apps platform and operator specific features.  That leaves manufacturers free to innovate, developing new femto-enabled products and driving cost-optimisation.
The results can be seen in the green Product line on the map, with an unrivalled range of femtocell products and prices that start below $100.

(Guest post by Keith Day at Ubiquisys.)

01 April 2010

How will free femtocells affect global femto forecasts?

The $100 wholesale price for femtocells has long been described as an industry milestone, because it enables operators to offer femtocells for free with existing services.  That’s why we took the unusual step of going public as soon as we had won our first contracts at sub-$100.

But what effect will this have on the adoption of femtocells?  All of the current market forecasts are based on a wholesale price of $150-$250, a price point that requires operators to charge for femtocells.  A free femtocell offer that provides a premium mobile experience will be compelling to many times more consumers.  Will this accelerate and amplify the femtocell adoption curve?

I raise the question because free femtocells are already beginning to appear (see my last post SoftBank offers free femtocells). 

29 March 2010

SoftBank Offers Free Femtocells

Yesterday, at an impromptu event commemorating the company's 30th anniversary, Japan's SoftBank announced that it would offer its customers free femtocells.  Registration for this new service will start in May.

There has long been agreement in the industry that free offers are a pre-requisite for femtocells to hit mass market volumes.  It looks like SoftBank, a company with a strong reputation for innovation, is leading the pack once again.

Thanks to @Nobi for the pics from the event (see more here).

Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son holding a femtocell (Ubiquisys G3-mini):

Femtocell in a residential setting:

Femtocell in a retail setting:

25 March 2010

Ubiquisys femtos spotted at CTIA Wireless

Ubiquisys G3-mini at the Femto Forum's Femtozone
(residential femtocell, 8 calls, 14.4Mbps, 8cm tall, 4.5W power consumption)

SFR and SoftBank G2 femtocells
Ubiquisys self-organising residential femtocells

Netgear all-in-one gateway - femto, wifi, ADSL, VoIP
(the tall black unit - features integrated Ubiquisys femto)

Ubiquisys G3-Enterprise femtocell
16 calls, 14.4Mbps - forms a self-organising network (SON)

Public Wireless Colo-Node HSPA metro femtocell
4x Ubiquisys 16-call/14.4Mbps femtocells, cable backhaul, self-organising, 2km range

Ubiquisys G2 IMS/SIP femtocell demo at the Tatara booth

Ubiquisys G3-mini and G3-enterprise on the Ericsson booth
(2Wire femto gateway featuring Ubiquisys femtocell just out of shot)

05 March 2010

IBM demonstrates Ubiquisys IMS femto at CeBIT 2010

IBM has been demonstrating Ubiquisys femtocells at CeBIT this week, as part of its NGN "Smart Networks" convergence solution for enterprises.

Ubiquisys is the sole provider of IMS femtocells, which have been commercially proven at innovative operator SoftBank in Japan.

The Ubiquisys enterprise femtocell represents a new kind of solution for enterprises of all sizes. Instead of manual radio planning as a one-off exercise, the femtocell protects business customers from this cost and complexity by contstantly scaning its environment and adapting its configuration automatically. Add more femtocells and they start to work together, communicating over the LAN to create a self-organising network (SON). This "breathing" femto network immediately responds to local capacity demands and to any changes in the macro network.

You can see the Ubiquisys femtocell in action in the picture above (it's the tiny device on the left - click for a larger image).

02 March 2010

Ubiquisys femtocells spotted at MWC10

1. BBC 4x video streaming demo

2. 2Wire HomePortal(R) with Ubi snap-in US femto module

3. G3-mini - 8cm high, 8 calls, 14.4/5.7 Mbps, 4.5W power input

4. SFR Home 3G (France)

5. 16-call self-organising network (SON) femto (wall-mounted)

6. Netgear all-in-one gateway - femto, wifi, ADSL, VoIP

7. SoftBank (Japan)

12 February 2010

Femtocell Self Organising Networks (SON) for Enterprise: A Commercial Reality

Great to see the lead we set in 2009 on small cell Self Organising Networks (SON) with Cognitive Radio now taking hold in the wider eco-system (Light Reading 11 Feb "MWC Preview: Femtos Go Macro").

I’m sorry to break the news to AirHop and Continuous Computing but we at Ubiquisys already have this technology in commercially deployment for Enterprises, having been awarded Operator commercial contracts back in 2007.

(Do read my previous posts on this subject... 27 Jan 2009, 3 & 27 March 2009 and 17 June 2009.)

The reality is stunning to see. The Self Organising Femto Grids being deployed now have inherited from our commercially live consumer products, the 3 years of optimisation, customisation, robustness, and network / handset IOT undertaken with Mobile Operators. The following gives a glimpse of what we have added to make Enterprise SON effective and practical in the real world:
  • Fully automated configuration; air interface and LAN sensing of femtocells and the surrounding macro networks, and sharing of this information between the femtos to allow dynamic radio resource optimisation (including power allocation) and call handover. Also auto selection of spreading codes ensuring no clashes on the grid.
  • Peer-to-peer handover between femtocells on the grid so that no central controller is needed.
  • Continuous sensing of the RF environment to adapt to changes in the Macro network or the femto grid, such as the addition of an additional femtocell.
  • Load balancing so that when single femtocells become heavily loaded (cafeteria effect) they handover active calls to the surrounding femtocells.
  • Group provisioning and management.
The full list is long and not something I can share in this blog, but it does hook in to all modules of the femtocell, which is why being in full control of your own software stack (as we are at Ubiquisys) has proven essential to make this work in the real world.

All of this consumer and enterprise functionality is part of our commercially proven Femto-Engine software. 8 and 16 call device variants are available from our OEM Partners.

03 February 2010

Ubiquisys at Mobile World Congress 2010

It’s that time of year again. We’re just two weeks away from the start of this year’s Mobile World Congress and it’s shaping up to be a great one for Ubiquisys.

I will be participating in a panel discussion, Long Term Revolution: Accelerating 4G Deployment with LTE Femtocells, on the Tuesday at 2:00pm, talking about how LTE femtocells can accelerate the deployment of 4G. We’ll also be speaking on the FemtoZone and participating in the Femto Forum’s media breakfast on the Tuesday.

In the Ubiquisys hospitality suite we’ll be demonstrating a number of new innovations in femtocell technology to our customers and partners – I’ll give you all the details on this in a forthcoming post.

Femtocells powered by our Femto-Engine software will be on display on the stands of many of our partners including NEC and also at the FemtoZone product showcase. They will also be on show at the UKTI stand where they will be providing multi-stream media in a demonstration with the BBC.

If you’re in Barcelona for Mobile World Congress this year please drop by to one of these demos and speaking sessions. We look forward to seeing you there.

25 January 2010

BBC and Ubiquisys Demonstrate video Streaming at CES

Over the weekend BBC Click featured several innovations from the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

They featured a demo by the BBC at the UKTI stand, using Ubiquisys femtocells.

The demonstration showed how a Ubiquisys femtocell can stream different videos to multiple phones at the same time, something that has proved troublesome with wi-fi.

You can see BBC Click here: