AT&T on Track for Femto Launch
The revelation of what will be the first UMTS femto launch in the U.S. follows the news today that Vodafone UK will launch Europe's first 3G femto service next week. The claim for the world's first UMTS femto service goes to Singapore's StarHub , which launched its Home Zone service in November last year with femto access points from Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. (See Brits Get Femtos From July 1 and StarHub Launches 3G Femto Service.)
Now, it seems, it won't be long before the U.S. gets a 3G femto service if all goes to plan at AT&T, as the operator prepares to expand its trial of the tiny home base stations.
According to AT&T's executive director for radio access network delivery, Gordon Mansfield, who was speaking at the Femtocells World Summit in London today, about 200 users are testing the femto service in targeted customer trials.
In the coming weeks, he added, "we will expand that into a marketing trial of the AT&T-branded 3G Microcell, which will be open to customers through our AT&T stores… in a handful of cities.
"We're on track for a full national launch by the end of 2009."
Mansfield confirmed to Unstrung that AT&T will launch with a standalone 3G femtocell, (as opposed to a femtocell that's integrated into a residential gateway). It is understood that AT&T's first femto product -- the "3G Microcell" -- will be supplied by Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), which uses a femto module from ip.access Ltd. that uses Picochip 's femto chipset. But there is no official word on AT&T's femto supplier. (See Cisco, ip.access Prep Femto Combo, AT&T Targets Q2 Femto Launch, AT&T the Latest to Jump on the Femto Wagon, and Femto's Big Open Secret.)
For AT&T, the motivation for pursuing femtocells is the potential for revenues from new services, reduced churn, and the macro network capacity gains that can be achieved by off-loading data traffic onto femtocells.
But AT&T also has its eye on integrated femtocells. "Certainly we're looking at integrated femtocells," Mansfield tells Unstrung. "Some people think that integration is putting a femto into a residential gateway, and that's one aspect.
"We're looking at other things in the home [and asking]: How can I leverage all the elements in the home? There's a lot of research and investigation in these areas and nothing definitive on what we're going to do."
— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Unstrung