CES: AT&T's Femtos in the Fall?

LAS VEGAS -- 2009 International CES -- Red leaves and tiny base stations, ahoy! The latest word on the AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) femtocell plan, as heard by Unstrung, is that the carrier is planning a possible commercial launch in the U.S. in the fall.

AT&T has already said it is testing the mini base stations intended to boost cellphone voice and data coverage in the home, and it's marked its calendar for a metropolitan launch in a U.S. city in the second quarter. (See AT&T Targets Q2 Femto Launch.) AT&T spokespeople, however, haven't yet responded to Unstrung's questions about a wider commercial launch in the fall.

The carrier is expected to announce more about its plans at the Mobile World Congress next month in Barcelona.

AT&T rival Verizon Wireless , meanwhile, is planning a femtocell launch early in 2009. (See Verizon Eyes Femtos for 2009.)

The Cisco factor
AT&T hasn't revealed which vendors it plans to work with for the femto deployment. Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), however, has long been rumored to be the name in the frame. (See Cisco, ip.access Prep Femto Combo.)

Cisco made an investment in U.K. femtocell startup ip.access Ltd. in January 2008. The networking giant is using technology from the startup to integrate a femtocell element into home gateway boxes from its subsidiary Scientific Atlanta . (See Cisco Invests in ip.access.)

Talking to Unstrung at CES, Cisco-Linksys senior director of strategy and business development Christopher Dobrec says his company has "learned a lot" from its home gateway work.

He won't name the specific carriers Cisco is working with, but he notes that all the major operators in the U.S. are looking into femtocell technology. "You can bet we're talking to all of them," he says.

Mobile operators want femtos, not for improving voice coverage, but for handling the wireless data usage driven by devices like the iPhone, according to Dobrec. He says femtocells can "help the RAN" (radio access network) by distributing device upload and download strain on an operator's 3G networks.

If you're either voice-challenged or data-constrained, you might want to learn more about the wonderful world of femtocells, so why not check out our new report on the topic? Just click here for more: Who Makes What: Femtocells. — Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

rduncan 12/5/2012 | 4:14:33 PM
re: CES: AT&T's Femtos in the Fall? Two categories of operators *need* to deploy femtocells (http://imcellular.org/tag/femt...

(A) Incumbents:
Strong, Data-centric carriers (seeking efficient offload)
(B) New Competition:
Innovative players making a dent in
existing wireline and wireless players

Of the Incumbents, AT&T is at the top of the list of operators that derive revenue from data services, and Femtocells represent a way for them to maintain their margins by radically reducing the cost of delivering data as data usage increases.

These are the other, top 10 data-centric operators that *need* to deploy femtocells:

1) NTT DoCoMo
2) China Mobile
4) Verizon Wireless
5) AT&T Mobility
6) Sprint Nextel
7) China Unicom
8) Softbank
9) O2 UK
10) T-Mobile USA

The development of this technology should be very interesting, so I'm tracking the products and their market success:

(a) Femtocell Scorecard
(an independent assessment of product attributes
and actual, market success)

(b) Femtocell Trials and Deployments
(tracking how Femtocells are being used,
and which type of products are being deployed)

I hope that you find this info useful as we follow the market and technical evolution of the mobile radio network.

Robert Duncan
Director of Mobile Product Planning

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