On the heels of an Informa report highlighting the maturity of femtocell technology, Alcatel-Lucent announces an enterprise-level femtocell solution at Mobile World Congress (MWC).
Telecommunications solution provider Alcatel-Lucent announced the availability
of a "small cell" (femtocell) wireless solution designed to help service
providers better serve customers inside of buildings that typically suffer from
poor wireless voice and data coverage.
The company argues that its small cell offering for enterprises not only
improves coverage in office environments, but it also provides increased data
capacity and throughput, making it possible to introduce a variety of
high-bandwidth applications. However, recent findings suggest security
issues with femtocell technology remain a concern.
The small cell offering builds on Alcatel-Lucent's femto base station
router, a platform that includes third-generation (3G) W-CDMA/HSPA radio access
and core network elements. Many office environments suffer from poor radio
frequency penetration, particularly in older buildings. According to research
from Informa Telecoms & Media, femtocell technology is experiencing the
first signs of maturity, with several Tier 1 operators deploying the technology
using a variety of business models. There are currently 12 service commitments,
including nine commercial launches and several ongoing trials, while completed
trials are now progressing into deployment plans for several mobile operators.
This contrasts with eight femtocell service commitments and six commercial
launches in November 2009.
Small cells solve the problem of poor frequency transmission while offering
the added benefit of offloading local traffic onto available wireline broadband
infrastructures. This, in turn, reduces the demand on mobile data networks. The
solution features Alcatel-Lucent's auto-configuration capability, which helps
reduce the operational burden on operators and features device management
capabilities provided by the Motive Home Device Manager. Motive is a division
of Alcatel-Lucent and the leading provider of device management solutions.
"Demand for mobile data services is growing dramatically, and business
applications represent a particularly promising market for mobile service
providers," said Wim Sweldens, president of Alcatel-Lucent's wireless
activities. "Our small cell offering for enterprises is perfectly suited to
addressing the needs of businesses for uninterrupted, high-quality mobile
connectivity on their premises."
According to Informa, in the past quarter French operator SFR, Portuguese
operator Optimus and Chinese operator China Unicom have commercially launched
femtocell services and both Japan's
KDDI and France's
Free have also committed to the technology. Additionally, Vodafone has relaunched
its femtocell offering under the "Sure Signal" brand and is realizing
considerable success in the United Kingdom,
spearheading the entrance of femtocell services in the European market.
Vodafone rebranded the femtocell service to make the proposition clearer to
end users while differentiating from its competition by eliminating indoor
coverage dead spots. As a result of growing operator commitment to the
technology, all Tier 1 equipment vendors have now committed to supporting open
standards and are actively working on integrating femtocell gateways into their
Informa said it expects the femtocell market to experience significant
growth over the next few years, reaching just under 49 million femtocell access
points (FAPs) in the market by 2014 and 114 million mobile users accessing
mobile networks through femtocells during that year. The company said "healthy
growth" is anticipated throughout the forecast period, with femtocell unit
sales reaching 25 million in 2014 alone.
Nathan Eddy is Associate Editor, Midmarket, at eWEEK.com. Before joining eWEEK.com, Nate was a writer with ChannelWeb and he served as an editor at FierceMarkets. He is a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.