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Carriers Warm to LTE Femtos

Michelle Donegan
LR Mobile News Analysis
Michelle Donegan

BERLIN -- LTE World Summit -- The role of femtocells in LTE networks has been a hot topic in Berlin this week, with at least one major operator convinced that the tiny base stations could be easier to introduce once LTE networks are deployed.

Despite having some reservations about 3G femtocells, T-Mobile International AG plans to launch a limited commercial service in Germany this year. The operator is not yet convinced that femtos can scale for a mass market deployment, because of some unresolved issues with interference and the impact on mobile device battery life, according to Klaus-Juergen Krath, senior VP of radio networks development at T-Mobile. (See MWC 2009:T-Mobile Preps Femto Launch.)

But LTE femtocells could be different, according to Krath.

"Some challenges with 3G femtos remain," stated Krath. "But now, we can prepare LTE in a way so that LTE is ready to support femtos in the best technological way, and the industry can work together on integrated chipsets so cost is at an economical level...

"The technical hurdles for femto adoption will be much lower with LTE than with 3G."

Telenor ASA (Nasdaq: TELN), meanwhile, believes femtos could have an important role in its LTE network in terms of proving macro network capacity and providing indoor coverage. But the operator has questions about how the devices would be integrated with both its current HSPA network as well as the new LTE network that it plans to initially roll out in urban hotspots. (See Telenor to Test Huawei LTE.)

Hans Erik Karsten, VP of network technologies at Telenor's research and innovation unit, is particularly concerned about the network and capacity planning issues in networks with a mix of access technologies. "The femto discussion is increasingly important. But how do femtos fit in where you're best off with HSPA in most of the city except for those [LTE] hotspots? There's no united opinion about femtos."

Not everyone's on board the LTE femtocell express just yet, though. In the U.S., Verizon Wireless is not planning to roll out femtos as part of its initial LTE deployment next year. Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD), however, is exploring the concept of using LTE femtos in a metro-area deployment. (See No Femtos in Verizon's First LTE Rollout, Vodafone Dreams of Metro Femto, Operators Eye LTE Metro Femtos, picoChip Touts LTE Femto, and Femto Shmemto.)

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Unstrung

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User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:04:26 PM
re: Carriers Warm to LTE Femtos

WHy would Femtocells be more relevant to LTE networks then 3G?

LTE using 700mhz will penetrate most structures and obviate the need for the Femotcell, versus the 3G networks which use spectrums that are unable to penetrate most structures and need a means to extend their network in a home.



User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:04:26 PM
re: Carriers Warm to LTE Femtos

In addition to lack of interference management (AP "shouting") and auto-power tuning of Femto AP within home and business (battery), Femto shows great promise. LTE Femto may be further out since HSPA and HSPA+ can point to great performance metrics.

Operators are also concerned with 'rogue' placements of Femtos at home and at the office (Yes, even with GPS onboard, there are ways...). Before mass adoption can take place, better syncronization and handoff features must be in place. The Femto vendors can learn from years of WiFi deployments.


El Rupester
El Rupester,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:04:26 PM
re: Carriers Warm to LTE Femtos

Absolutely, 700MHz will go for miles and penetrate walls beautifully.

So for coverage of b-i-g areas it is marvellous.

But if it goes for miles (which is what you do want for seamless coverage) then it covers a lot of area and a lot of people - so your capacity per user is not going to be great.

In addition, of course, at any meaningful distance the SINR means you will not get dense modulation or any very impressive data rates.

So you really need to complement that with 'small cells' to give you dense data capacity, with short range so decent modulation, at the places where you have lots of users.

Finally, of course, there eis only one country which has 700MHz, and only one operator in the world with announced plans: most carriers are looking at 2.5GHz

LTE femto are not just (or not initially) residential - more analagous to what muni WiFi aspired to being, but with an air-interface designed for that application. 



User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:04:22 PM
re: Carriers Warm to LTE Femtos
If LTE Femto would be the first priority for operator, how about chipset support?
It's clearly that PicoChip/Percello have not yet output 3.5G/LTE femto chipset solution. How to meet the time? Furthermore, for CPE vendors, do they need to jump into LTE right now? Or keep 3.5G track?
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