France Fires Up Femtocells

French mobile operator SFR launched a 3G femtocell service today using petit base stations from Ubiquisys Ltd.

SFR is the second operator to launch a femtocell service in Europe, after Vodafone UK in (where else?) the U.K., and the second commercial customer for femto maker Ubiquisys, after SoftBank Corp. in Japan.

With the new femto service, dubbed "SFR Home 3G," SFR is targeting customers that suffer from poor indoor 3G coverage with a standalone femtocell access point. The femtocell is not integrated into the operator's Neufbox residential gateways.

(Watch the video advertisement on SFR's Website here for a compelling portrayal of why it's good to have excellent 3G coverage at home.)

SFR's femtocell service is similar to Vodafone's in terms of business case and price. Both operators are targeting indoor coverage in their initial deployments. SFR's femtocell costs €199 (US$298), which is not far off the price of the Vodafone Access Gateway, which costs £160 ($265). And both femtocell services will work with an ADSL connection from any ISP, not just from SFR or Vodafone.

SFR, which is 44 percent owned by Vodafone and 56 percent owned by Vivendi , has dabbled with femtocells for some time. Unstrung first reported the French operator's keenness for the little base stations in early 2008. (See France Is Favorite for Femto First , SFR’s Femto Riposte, SFR Femto Spotted, and Operators Feel Femto Frustration.)

And yet even in June this year, the operator still appeared cool on the business case for femtocells, and SFR's director of network marketing Guillaume de Lavallade raised concerns about French public perceptions of health risks associated with exposure to cellular base stations and handsets. (See Will Femtos Fry the French?)

Have those issues been sufficiently resolved? SFR had not responded to Unstrung's questions as this article was published.

The other players involved in the SFR femtocell deployment are NEC Corp. (Tokyo: 6701) for the systems integration, Kineto Wireless Inc. , which supplies the femtocell network gateway, and Picochip , which supplies the chipsets in the Ubiquisys 3G femto. (See Ubiquisys Flush With Femto Funds and Ubiquisys Rumor.)

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Unstrung

El Rupester 12/5/2012 | 3:52:07 PM
re: France Fires Up Femtocells

You mention:  

SFR's femtocell costs €199 (US$298), which is not far off the price of the Vodafone Access Gateway, which costs £160 ($265)


Actually, Vodafone's device  is quite a bit cheaper: it is only £120 if you pay by installments. (Odd - normally you get 'discount for cash' not '+33% extra to pay upfront')


But rather more interesting, it is available free on a lot of their tariffs:



Some of these offers look pretty good - even without the free femtocell.

Michelle Donegan 12/5/2012 | 3:52:06 PM
re: France Fires Up Femtocells

Hi El Rupester,

Thanks for pointing that out.

SFR appears to bundle the femtos into some monthly tariffs as well, but I don't have those details yet.

Free is definitely the way to go if operators want to see more of these fly off the shelves, but how sustainable is that? Can operators really afford to subsidize femtocells heavily?


Sign In