Will Franks - femtocell pioneer

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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.