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Verizon Eyes Femtos

LAS VEGAS -- CTIA Wireless 2008 -- Verizon Wireless 's CTO Tony Melone says the No. 2 U.S. operator is examining using femtocells to bolster coverage with its CDMA networks and is "looking at" the mini-base station technology now.

Talking to Unstrung here at the show, Melone says the operator sees applications for the tiny cellular radios with its network infrastructure before the company starts deploying so-called fourth generation long-term evolution (LTE) technology late in 2009 and into 2010. Melone says that early LTE tech is "in lab trials."

Verizon is the second major CDMA operator in the U.S. to take femtocells, which are intended to improve voice quality and data download rates in the home, seriously as an infrastructure play. Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) has already started to sell the boxes to consumers in Denver, Indianapolis, and Nashville, Tenn.

Sprint's CTO Barry West is also enthusiastic about using the technology with the operator's upcoming WiMax network. (See Sprint Quiet on WiMax Launch Date.)

Verizon's interest is good news for vendors like Airvana Inc. , AirWalk Communications Inc. , and Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT), which are working with CDMA femtocell technology.
At least one major vendor, however, is skeptical of the appeal of the femtocell in general. "As a standalone device, they solve some problems but we have to ask how many devices do consumers really want in their home?" says Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC)'s North American CTO, Arun Bhikshesvaran, in conversation with Light Reading TV.

For Verizon, at least, the femtocell is likely to be a short-term solution as the operator moves towards 4G coverage.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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