6:40 AM -- Apple Inc. has filed a patent at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for femtocell technology, which was spotted by Macnews.
No doubt this discovery will be good news for small-cell folks, happy to have Apple and femtocell together in the same sentence. But beyond that, why does Apple want a femto patent?
The invention is called "wireless femtocell setup methods and apparatus," which appears to be a technique for reducing interference. According to the abstract, it's described as "Methods and apparatus that enable a wireless femtocell to operate in its designated frequency so as to minimize interference between the wireless femtocell and neighboring base stations (and other femtocells or nomadic cells)." Get the full details here.
Such a technology could be applied not only to public-access small-cell deployments to reduce interference with macro base stations, but also to an indoor scenario to prevent a femto device from messing with a Wi-Fi access point.
The existence of the patent doesn't necessarily mean Apple is doing something with small cells. But what if Apple does indeed have designs for the tiny base station technology? If so, where would it make sense for Apple to use small cells?
Aditya Kaul, practice director for mobile networks at ABI Research, wrote in a recent blog that Apple already sells devices to which it could add femto support -- such as the AirPort Express Wi-Fi base station.
But the bigger question to speculate about is: With small-cell technology integrated into its products or software, would Apple be able to go around mobile operators and provide wireless connectivity services directly to consumers in their homes?
Also, given how litigious the mobile sector is now, Apple's patent move is bound to make small-cell pioneers like ip.access Ltd. and Ubiquisys Ltd. nervous.
-- Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Light Reading Mobile