Optical/IP Networks

AT&T Targets Q2 Femto Launch

The head of operations for AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) said today that its first metropolitan deployment of wireless home base stations should come in the second quarter of 2009. (See AT&T the Latest to Jump on the Femto Wagon.)

Speaking at a UBS conference in New York Tuesday, John Stankey, president and CEO of AT&T's operations, said AT&T is "validating" femtocell technology now with customers and employees. "We expect that we will be into a broader-scale metropolitan deployment the second quarter of next year. " Stankey said. "We are really excited about this."

Femtocells are tiny home base stations that can be connected to a user’s wired cable or DSL network to improve wireless voice coverage and data capacity. Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) is the only U.S. operator offering commercial femtocell service to its customers, with the $99 AirRave from Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (Korea: SEC).

Verizon Wireless , the second-ranked U.S. mobile operator behind AT&T, is planning an initial launch early next year. (See Verizon Eyes Femtos for 2009.)

Like most operators on the femtocell trail, Stankey didn’t say too much about initial product and service pricing. He did, however, illuminate some of the earlier Unstrung reporting on AT&T’s femtocell plans that suggested the operator was taking an integrated home gateway approach. (See Cisco, ip.access Prep Femto Combo.)

That way, the product could be altered depending on the services the user has in the home. The femtocell could be combined with a WiFi gateway, say, to create "a media device that is used for storing content or distributing content. We would like to get to a gateway device that optimizes the home network."

A price less than $100 "is very, very do-able in that environment," although it might not be the price the company first comes to market at, Stankey said. AT&T's goal is for its customer premises equipment (CPE) for the home to total less than $500.

Stankey didn’t reveal which vendors AT&T is using. He did say, however, that he expects a femtocell service to work with "any 3G handset."

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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