MWC 2011: Telstra CTO Slams Femtos

Femto firms looking to boost their fan bases should not go to Telstra, which views the technology as 'an admission of defeat'

Michelle Donegan, Contributing Editor, Light Reading

February 15, 2011

2 Min Read
MWC 2011: Telstra CTO Slams Femtos

BARCELONA -- Mobile World Congress 2011 -- Telstra Corp. Ltd. (ASX: TLS; NZK: TLS) CTO Hugh Bradlaw is not a fan of femtocells.

Speaking here on the subject of mobile data offload technologies, Bradlaw made his position on the small home base stations abundantly clear: "Femtocells -- I usually classify these in the dumb-idea-of-the-week category."

While femtos usually generate a lot of buzz each year here at the mobile industry's annual event, he said it would take a lot more than that to get his company excited about them. "I struggle to see the benefit," he said.

For Bradlaw, femtocells are "an admission of defeat." In other words, by dispatching home base stations for consumers to install themselves in order to get a better cellular signal, an operator is effectively admitting that its network is not good enough and that the coverage is poor.

However, his dim view of femtocells is reserved only for the user-installed, in-home variety. When it comes to operator managed and deployed femtocells, that's a different matter, and Bradlaw has time for this style of femto.

"Operator-managed femtocells can have potential to reduce the cost of network deployment," said Bradlaw. "[Femtocells and picocells] have potential as part of a planned network."

'Technology will not save us'
As for dealing with the exponential growth of data traffic surging through mobile networks, Bradlaw said that it will take more than the newest generation of mobile broadband technologies to relieve the strain on the network.

"There are those who believe technology will automatically save us," he said. "For those who think that LTE is the savior of network traffic demand... Will technology save us? No."

According to Bradlaw, who runs Telstra's dual-carrier 42Mbit/s HSPA+ network in Australia, Long Term Evolution (LTE) offers a 30 percent to 60 percent improvement on HSPA+ in terms of extra capacity.

He argued that rather than faster mobile network technologies, the key to addressing potential mobile network capacity constraints is in fact the availability of new spectral bands -- such as 1800MHz, which Telstra is using for its LTE network rollout later this year -- and traffic management. (See MWC 2011: Telstra Sticks With Ericsson for LTE .)

"Traffic management is going to be absolutely critical," he said, and referred specifically to policy control and quality-of-service capabilities.

He said that adding quality of service to the network will free up bandwidth and guarantee services such as VoIP, but admitted that it's "best-effort traffic that lies below that will suffer." But he added that people will need to understand that they will have to pay for the service levels that they want to achieve.

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Light Reading Mobile

About the Author(s)

Michelle Donegan

Contributing Editor, Light Reading

Michelle Donegan is an independent technology writer who has covered the communications industry on both sides of the Pond for the past twenty years.

Her career began in Chicago in 1993 when Telephony magazine launched an international title, aptly named Global Telephony. Since then, she has upped sticks (as they say) to the UK and has written for various publications, including Communications Week International, Total Telecom, Light Reading, Telecom Titans and more.

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