U.K.-based ip.access claims it is the first small-cell vendor to ship more than 1 million 3G residential femtocells after what it calls a "breakthrough" 2012.
That's a milestone not only for ip.access, which has been developing and deploying small base stations for about 10 years, but also for its partner and investor Cisco Systems Inc., because most of the 1 million femtos were delivered together: The two companies, which teamed up in 2008, supply the mini home base stations offered by AT&T Inc. in the U.S.
According to ip.access CEO Simon Brown, passing the 1 million mark for residential units shipped was just part of the market activity that made 2012 a "breakthrough year" for the company as well as for the industry in general. The company's other boasts include winning 40 new operator contracts last year --five of which were with operator groups that span multiple countries -- and succeeding in 90 percent of the requests for proposals (RFPs) in which it participated. It also shipped its LTE small cell to 10 trial customers last year.
On the financial front, Brown says ip.access recorded an operating profit for the first time in January.
But 2013 will be a bit different. While Brown says he expects to see a gradual increase in residential product volumes this year, he expects more revenue and growth to come from enterprise products, which includes open access picocells.
The company will also have a different sales strategy for 2013, since it has recently struck new partnerships with other major vendors that will resell its small cells, network gateways and management systems. Ip.access didn't name its new vendor channel partners, but these relationships are in addition to its existing and on-going relationship with Cisco. The company will also continue to sell direct to operators.
While ip.access has released this residential femto shipments figure and numbers of new deployment contracts it has won, Brown declined to specify the company's current small cell market share. But he says he would be "greatly surprised if it's not leading the market."
"I'm happy," he says. "Small cells work and work in very high volume. And as a small-cell player, we can demonstrate financial independence."
Why this matters
The announcement that ip.access has shipped more than 1 million 3G femtocells will be a gauntlet thrown down to its rivals ahead of the Mobile World Congress at the end of this month, potentially provoking announcements from competitors about their own market successes. The figures also provide something of a snapshot of how the small cell market performed in 2012.
The company's claims could also leave some analysts scratching their heads. According to ABI Research, there were two million femtos shipped in 2012, with the top three vendors named as Airvana Inc., Alcatel-Lucent and NEC Corp./Ubiquisys Ltd.
Meanwhile, Infonetics Research Inc. ranks Samsung Corp. and Airvana as the top two small-cell vendors in its most recent market update.
â€” Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Light Reading Mobile