The largest cellular operator in the U.S. -- formerly known as Cingular -- is said to have to a request for proposal (RFP) regarding this new technology currently doing the rounds, industry sources say.
"There is an RFP out," one industry source notes. "Our partners have got it."
A home base station -- or femtocell -- is a low-cost, low-power radio system that can be used to boost bandwidth and coverage and enable new applications such as fixed/mobile convergence (FMC) in a subscriber's dwelling. Vendors have been pushing the idea for a while, but it appears that mobile operators are now starting to take them seriously.
A spokesman for AT&T refused to talk about the rumors when reached by Unstrung on Monday afternoon. "We're not going to comment on that, sorry," he said.
An AT&T RFP could be further validation for this emerging technology -- especially following recent news about Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD) checking out the prospects for femtocell technology over the last several months. (See Vodafone RFP Fuels Femtocells.)
AT&T already works with 2Wire Inc. , a home gateway vendor that announced late March that it will introduce initial femtocell products early in 2008. The company wouldn't say whether it had seen an AT&T RFP.
"We don't comment on any of our contracts," says a 2Wire spokeswoman. (See Femto Players Gun for Gateways.) There are plenty of other telco equipment players, large and small, that would be interested in a potentially large contract from AT&T. Vendors in this space include:
- Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU)
- Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC)
- Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd.
- ip.access Ltd.
- Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT)
- NEC Corp. (Tokyo: 6701)
- Nokia Networks
- Ubiquisys Ltd.
- ZTE Corp. (Shenzhen: 000063; Hong Kong: 0763)
Other major operators said to be looking at the home broadband technology include Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S), French mobile operator SFR , and SoftBank Mobile Corp.
Meanwhile, T-Mobile US Inc. -- AT&T's smaller GSM rival -- recently launched its own WiFi-based fixed/mobile convergence (FMC) service nationwide. [email protected] uses WiFi to achieve some of the same aims of the femtocell crowd, such as easier wireless connections in the home. The difference is that T-Mobile's offering requires a dualmode handset, while femto-based systems do not. (See T-Mobile Launches UMA in USA.)
— Dan Jones, Site Editor, and Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Unstrung