PicoChip Unveils Low-Cost Femto Chip

Going for the gateway
Heavy Reading's Brown reckons picoChip’s new generation of femtocell chips will be best suited for femtocell modules that are integrated into home gateways, because that's the most cost-effective option for operators in the long run. (See Femto Players Gun for Gateways, Netgear Gateway Goes Femto, Netgear, Ubiquisys Team, Thomson, IP.access Team, and Thomson, NSN Team.)

“The femto itself as a standalone device is OK for an early launch, but it won’t really be cost effective enough for a mass market,” says Brown.

Integrating a femtocell module into home networking gear helps drive down the price of the devices because there are several shared components. Heavy Reading estimates that the bill of materials for a femtocell module (before software costs) is expected to come down to about $50 towards the second half of 2009.

“To get to that price point, you need more integrated silicon,” says Brown. “And that’s really the application that picoChip is targeting with this new product. It will make the modules cheaper.”

Talking volumes
PicoChip's new product will be available in volume early next year, says Baines.

“When volumes start going into tens of millions of units, which is what the industry is talking about now for WCDMA, you need a very aggressive cost-reduction program,” says the marketing man. “People like AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) are talking about 7 million units, and Vodafone is talking about similar units. You need lower-cost silicon to support those numbers.” (See Is AT&T Putting Out Femto Feelers?, Cisco, ip.access Prep Femto Combo, and Vodafone Picks Femto Vendors.)

Market potential still a topic for debate
But it’s still early days for femtocells. Nokia Networks head of radio access, Marc Rouanne, told Unstrung at a recent press event that “the femtocell market has not decided if it’s going to be big or not.”

Getting the price of the devices down is critical to the fate of femtocells. The market seems to be in a chicken-and-egg situation, where operators say they need cheaper femtos before they can commit to volume orders, but volume orders are needed to drive down the price of the devices. PicoChip’s new generation of integrated femtocell chips at least goes a way toward bringing costs down.

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Unstrung

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AllKindsOfThings 12/5/2012 | 3:37:53 PM
re: PicoChip Unveils Low-Cost Femto Chip Are you referring to the approval of 3GPP luh Interface - isn't that still likely to happen by the end of this year?

Do you know that PicoChip has NOT invested in the right things or are you only assuming this?

After all, Ubiquisys, who seem to be listed as PicoChip customer, claims that they can upgrade from their lu based approach to luh by a remote upgrade of the femtocell software. If that was true, the issue may not be really dependant on changing anything grundbraking at the chipdesign level withing PicoChip itself... ?

I'd asssume there are also PicoChip competitors - what/how are they doing w.r.t. this interface?

BR, AllKindsOfThings
realworldguy 12/5/2012 | 3:38:05 PM
re: PicoChip Unveils Low-Cost Femto Chip It seems a bit premature to invest in a low-cost chip at this point. The interface to the Femto Gateway which is key to the implementation has not yet been agreed upon by vendors and providers yet. Several other aspects on the radio side have also not been firmed up. Its a bold move - but one that could be expensive in the long run.
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