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UK Femto Firm Fired Up for Growth

Michelle Donegan
LR Mobile News Analysis
Michelle Donegan
8/16/2011
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U.K.-based femtocell firm ip.access Ltd. claimed on Tuesday that its technology has been deployed in more than 500,000 3G access points in homes, offices and hotspots, making it the top femto supplier in the market.

The company, which powers AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)'s Microcell devices with partner Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), also said that it expects its technology to be deployed in 1 million access points sometime next year, given its current rate of growth. (See Cisco Claims AT&T Femto as Its Own and Rumor: Giants Crash AT&T Femto Party.)

While these figures are the claims of one vendor about its own progress, they help to build a picture of the still young femtocell market. According to research from Informa Telecoms & Media , commissioned by the Femto Forum Ltd. and published in June this year, there were more than 2.3 million 3G femtocells deployed worldwide. Using that figure, ip.access would have nearly 22 percent of the 3G access points deployed based on the shipment milestone the vendor announced today.

The company's new CEO Simon Brown said demand for 3G femtos is growing every week. "After 12 years of plodding, the growth opportunity is there [for ip.access]." (See Femto Firm Replaces CEO .)

That demand continues to come from North America, but there is also some strong demand coming via Asia, including markets such as India and China, according to Brown. (See ip.access Takes Picocells to India and ip.access Opens R&D Center in India.)

And the company has been on a hiring spree recently to keep up with this demand and to pursue its growth plans. The firm now has 354 employees in the U.K., U.S. and India , which is up from 252 as of August 2010, and it is still recruiting. ip.access said it plans to increase its workforce by 25 percent before the end of this financial year.

But where does the small, privately held company go from here -- get bought or go for an IPO? There is no "hard and firm plan or timescale" for that, said Brown.

"[The company] can IPO, given the growth we're looking at," he added.

Brown said ip.access is "very close" to being profitable, but the company does not disclose revenue or profit data. "We delayed the point of profitability to accelerate faster," he said.

As for what's in the product pipeline, the company will expand on its current mix of access points for residential, enterprise and metro hotspot deployments. The company has plans for a Long Term Evolution (LTE) femto with integrated WiFi and well as a new metro product, according to Brown.

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Light Reading Mobile

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