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Comcast Goes for WiMax Femtocells

Michelle Donegan
LR Cable News Analysis
Michelle Donegan

LONDON -- Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) has revealed its intention to pursue WiMax femtocells as a key to its wireless strategy, as Dave Williams, senior VP for wireless and technology at the cable giant, speaking here at the Avren Events Femtocells Europe 2008 conference, said that part of the new Clearwire deal calls for 5 MHz of spectrum across the U.S. to be set aside solely for WiMax femtocells.

”It was hard won, but that’s in the deal,” said Williams, who joined Comcast earlier this year after most recently serving as chief technology officer of Telefónica O2 Europe. (See Comcast's New Wireless SVP .) “We would have liked more [spectrum], but you have to get what you [can] get when you do a deal.” He added that he expected to get 8 Mbit/s downstream with that amount of spectrum.

Comcast, along with Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC), and two other cable operators -- Bright House Networks and Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) -- have invested $3.2 billion in the new Clearwire WiMax consortium, and together they will own 22 percent of the new venture. (See Cable Plays Clearwire Card, Sprint: 4G & M&A Still Unclear, Clearwire: We'll Kick LTE's Butt, Can Clearwire Do It?, and Clearwire Won't Use Google's Dark Fiber.)

The dedicated femtocell spectrum will be available for any of the new Clearwire partners to use, but Williams said that the cable operators have more of an incentive to use it because it will offer them a more cost-effective way to deliver wireless services in the home.

As part of the new Clearwire arrangement, Comcast, Bright House, and Time Warner will wholesale WiMax capacity to sell services on to its customers. But Williams said that Comcast is motivated to build out its own femtocell network, because doing so would avoid some of those wholesale costs.

“As part of the WiMax consortium, we have to buy bits and minutes of use,” he said. “If we build our own femtocell network we don’t have to pay for that. So, we have a vested interest in building out femtocells.

“We’ll be pushing WiMax femtocells because we have a good customer base in the home -- we sell HDTV, VOIP, and high-speed Internet connectivity. We want to take that experience in the home and add mobility."

Williams said he envisioned future services and packages that would encourage customers to use their WiMax femtocells and stay on Comcast’s network. “For example, you’ll have very low-cost calling on the femtocell, and you’ll get a higher rate on the macro network."

Williams added that Comcast will now start work on getting a specification developed for WiMax femtocells and getting suppliers on board.

“We have to push a specification through the WiMax Forum and instill enthusiasm among the vendor community. Femtocells are absolutely key to WiMax.” — Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Unstrung

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User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:01:16 PM
re: Comcast Goes for WiMax Femtocells

So even if a consumer does not have internet of any form from anyone they can connect the femto to the wall outlet and have wimax at home with a backhaul line to carry the traffic without the use of RAN?

Or does the consumer need a comcast set top box but no cable modem?

How many of us have set top boxes ? is this wimax service for the premium comcast consumers with set top boxes?

or is a cable modem/broadband modem needed?

then again if a person has broadband and wifi router at home where is the issue / need for Wimax indoors? Wifi is 10X better than wimax at home.

Femto cells cost $200 why would i spend that money on top of my $56 wifi router. Also i need wifi - not all of my devices are wimax enabled?

please enlighten



User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 3:37:59 PM
re: Comcast Goes for WiMax Femtocells
I am confused on the value of the WiMAX femtocell. Is this for home deployment? I thought the value of WiMax was that people would be able to depend on WiMax and drop their wired broadband connection. But of course, a femtocell in my house will need a broadband connection to work. If I already have a broadband connection for when I am home, why do I need a WiMax femtocell? If I am using a PC, it almost certainly has Wifi capability. And exactly why is it that WiMax doesn't work in my home anyway? If I don't have WiMax coverage where I live, then a femtocell that works in my house only is a crappy solution since it stops working when I walk out the door.

So, what exactly is the target market here? What is the business case? Why do I want this femtocell in my house. Maybe there are good reasons for such a deployment, but they are not obvious to me and certainly not spelled out in this article.

User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 3:37:57 PM
re: Comcast Goes for WiMax Femtocells
Makes a lot of sense *if* there are new devices that are WiMAX only. If there are home entertainment devices in the future that use WiMAX to download large data files then it does make sense.
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 3:37:44 PM
re: Comcast Goes for WiMax Femtocells
1st: One need to realize that the Clearwire Network is using 2.5Ghz spectrum that does not penetrate walls or foliage very well if at all. So you will expect that Clearwire will need means of getting access into a Home or Office.
2nd The MSO do not have a Broadband Wireless network at present and by connecting their Cable modem networks to Clearwires WiMAX Network it benefits both parties. The MSO can now provide a Wired customer with a Mobile Broadband data link when they leave their home. Clearwire will be able to provide its customers Broadband access in properties they could not reach prior to this. Not only that they will be able to provide a user with serious Broadband, capacity of the Cable Modem, in the home/business.
I think you will find that femtocell makers will provide MSO with a device that will include a WiFi (maybe 802.11n), a VoiceIP port and a Cable modem. We might even see Motoroal and Cisco making Set top boxes with all the listed features.

Jim A
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