Feeds

The age of the femtocell?

Ubiquisys gets set to startle the market

The Power of One Infographic

Eventually, most femtocells will be in private homes, subsidised by the big operators, because of the "lock-in" they provide. If Vodafone provides a femtocell, it will be the strongest signal, by far, inside the building, making it harder for the subscriber to switch suppliers.

The femtocell sector is undoubtedly set to boom, but most observers were expecting to have to wait until the big mobile operators bought into the technology. That was supposed to start happening in 2007.

But that date is slipping. Big mobile operators, despite their real problems with getting 3G signals into the home or into the office building, are facing growing scepticism from investors, who want to see this new technology working reliably before they invest the large sums involved.

VCs, faced with the likelihood that their investment would not bear fruit on the expected boom scale this year, seem to have got cold feet about the Ubiquisys project. Avaya, however, can take a longer-term view - including the assessment that Ubiquisys is a bargain buy at $150 odd million, and might well fall into the hands of a rival - and so it wants in now.

It also can't afford to see mobile VoIP technology becoming monopolised by mobile telcos.

Ubiquisys has started trials of its Zonegate product in Eastern Europe. "The system comprises an access point installed in a user's home," says the product spec. Normally, it would require broadband to feed the signals from the phone network. There is also software - a management system integrated with the mobile operator's core network. "The system works with existing GSM/UMTS handsets and has no recourse to WiFi," the company points out.

In the UK at least, the mobile telcos are probably two years from large-scale rollout. Trials on a small scale are believed to be underway in France Telecom's UK research department; Vodafone is not known to be doing anything in Europe, and if T-Mobile is doing anything on a large scale, it hasn't said anything about it. Telefonica has other problems.

Right now, they see their main threat as the rollout of Wi-Fi based mobiles, such as the Nokia E61, through startups like Truphone, which can bill for far smaller charges. It will take them a while to whip up enthusiasm among their bigger investors for a switch to a femtocell strategy, which they will almost certainly have to subsidise.

At the moment, roughly half of UK households have broadband. But if each home decided to install a femtocell, and the operators had to subsidise the installation, it would probably cost over $100 per home just for the hardware, and maybe twice that for the manpower.

That's an investment of £2bn which now looks essential if the dream of "mobile data windfalls" is to come true.

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
GoTenna: How does this 'magic' work?
An ideal product if you believe the Earth is flat
Google Nest, ARM, Samsung pull out Thread to strangle ZigBee
But there's a flaw in Google's IP-based IoT system
Orange spent weekend spamming customers with TXTs
Zero, not infinity, is the Magic Number customers want
US freemium mobile network eyes up Europe
FreedomPop touts 'free' calls, texts and data
Apple orders huge MOUNTAIN of 80 MILLION 'Air' iPhone 6s
Bigger, harder trouser bulges foretold for fanbois
'Two-speed internet' storm turns FCC.gov into zero-speed website
Deadline for comments on net neutrality shake-up extended to Friday
NBN Co execs: No FTTN product until 2015
Faster? Not yet. Cheaper? No data
prev story

Whitepapers

Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.