Feeds

The age of the femtocell?

Ubiquisys gets set to startle the market

Boost IT visibility and business value

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 Essential Guide to IT Transformation

More from The Register

next story
Scotland's BIG question: Will independence cost me my broadband?
They can take our lives, but they'll never take our SPECTRUM
Bring back error correction, say Danish 'net boffins
We don't need no steenkin' TCP/IP retransmission and the congestion it causes
Auntie remains MYSTIFIED by that weekend BBC iPlayer and website outage
Still doing 'forensics' on the caching layer – Beeb digi wonk
NBN Co adds apartments to FTTP rollout
Commercial trial locations to go live in September
Samsung Z Tizen OS mobe is post-phoned – this time for good?
Russian launch for Sammy's non-droid knocked back
Telstra to KILL 2G network by end of 2016
GSM now stands for Grave-Seeking-Mobile network
Seeking LTE expert to insert small cells into BT customers' places
Is this the first step to a FON-a-like 4G network?
What FTC lawsuit? T-Mobile US touts 10GB, $100 family-of-4 plan
Folks 'could use that money for more important things' says CEO Legere
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
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.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.