Femtocells & Notspots: Coverage Is King

If there's a universal truth in the mobile industry, it's that coverage is king. More than any other factor, this has been the foundation of competitive advantage in the mobile services market. Carriers that invested early and deeply in network infrastructure and were able to acquire lower-frequency spectrum established insurmountable leads over their competitors, leaving late entrants to compete on price.

In this context, it's perhaps not so surprising that in the recent Heavy Reading study into operators' femtocell deployment plans, improved coverage is seen as the single most important driver of the business case (see Figure 1). This is especially the case in North America, where coverage enhancement dominates the discussion, but it is also significant in densely populated geographies, such as Western Europe. (For more on the survey, see also Heavy Reading Reveals Femtocell Survey Results) and 2010: Year of the Femto.)

With 2G voice networks now offering roughly comparable coverage, especially in highly competitive markets, it could be argued that most carriers are now operating on a level playing field. Yet with 3G mobile broadband the new battleground in subscriber acquisition, coverage is once again a deciding factor when consumers select a service provider. And, broadly speaking, better coverage equals better performance in 3G, making it doubly important.

So important is coverage that a new term, the "notspot" – essentially meaning a place without 3G coverage – has entered the consumer-tech lexicon. The U.K. telecom regulator, Ofcom , has even made tackling "notspots" a major part of its new consultation on regulation of the British mobile market.

And don't expect next-generation radio technology to somehow bend the laws of physics. While access to sub-1GHz spectrum will help operators deploy emerging technologies such as WiMax and LTE – kudos to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for making 700MHz spectrum available – 27 percent of operators surveyed already view femtocells as critical or strategic to "4G" coverage.

Heavy Reading's "Femtocell Deployment & Market Perception Survey" aggregates the views of 111 service provider professionals, from 79 different network operators, to reveal a market-wide view of the major femtocell opportunities and challenges, and to identify the vendor capabilities most valued by operators.

— Gabriel Brown, Senior Analyst, Heavy Reading

For more information or a FREE PREVIEW of the "Femtocell Deployment & Market Perception Survey," please contact:

    Lee Salem
    Sales Director – Custom Research, Heavy Reading
    [email protected]

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