UbiquiSys Gets Google Boost
Since femtocell startup Ubiquisys Ltd. announced in July that Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) was a strategic investor, the startup has prepared a manufacturing facility for mass production of its 3G home base station and will start friendly user trials at European operators in December. (See Google Invests in 3G Startup, Ubiquisys Ramps Up Production, and UbiquiSys Ltd..)
With Google's involvement, UbiquiSys has also felt something of a "Google effect." It seems that a relationship with the Internet giant brings with it some of the paparazzi-like speculation that surrounds Google, and particularly Google's moves into all things mobile. (See The G-Phone Cometh, Google Eyeing UK Broadband?, and Google: Thinking Bigger Than Phones?.)
"Google do help us enormously," says Keith Day, vice president of marketing at UbiquiSys. He adds that Google's involvement has also led to extra speculation about the startup.
"People make assumptions about what we may or may not be doing with Google, and we don't add to that," says Day. "It's positive that people are talking about us, but it's difficult as well, so it's slightly two-edged."
Google is notoriously tight-lipped about its mobile plans, and it is understood that Google's non-disclosure agreements are very strict. So, UbiquiSys is not able to specify exactly how much Google is involved.
At the very least, Google provides insights into Internet applications, which will help UbiquiSys understand and develop the potential services mobile operators will be able to offer. For example, some UbiquiSys employees are using the 3G femtocell to connect into their home networks and access videos stored on laptops or PCs from their mobile phones, while others stream content onto their phones from YouTube or other sites.
"[With Google], we have good links into the world of the Internet and that gives us a good strong perspective into that," says Will Franks, chief technology officer and founder of UbiquiSys.
"Why did [Google] invest? They think the broadband Internet should be as broadly available as possible," says Franks. "If you think about what femtocells can do and what Google's been doing on applications and mobile phones... Google doesn't invest in companies just because they got to the letter 'U.' " (See Google Invests in Indoor Mesh and Google Backs Powerline Carrier.)
Since Google has been on board, UbiquiSys has prepared a manufacturing line in the Sony UK Technology Centre in South Wales for mass production of the ZoneGate 3G femtocell. (See Ubiquisys Ramps Up Production.)
Franks says the factory is producing hundreds of femtocells now and will be producing thousands in December. The early units are mainly being shipped out to executives at mobile operators in Europe.
The UbiquiSys ZoneGate is in trials with eight operators in Europe and the startup will soon add another operator trial in Asia. Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD)'s French mobile operator SFR is one of the European mobile operators trialing the UbiquiSys product and the company says it is in another Vodafone operator in Europe. (See Vodafone Picks Femto Vendors.)
UbiquiSys says it will start "very friendly" user trials in December. Broader user trials will start in March next year. And a few of the operators that are trialing UbiquiSys are aiming for soft launches in June next year, according to Franks.
— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Unstrung