Carriers Warm to LTE Femtos
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