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DoCoMo Seeks LTE Femto Suppliers

Michelle Donegan
LR Mobile News Analysis
Michelle Donegan
6/22/2010
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LONDON -- Femtocells World Summit -- NTT DoCoMo Inc. (NYSE: DCM) today challenged the mobile industry to come up with LTE femtos that it can commercially deploy in 2011 and 2012.

Yoshiyuki Yasuda, DoCoMo's managing director of radio access networks, said that he would like to roll out femtocells alongside its LTE macro network deployment to ensure coverage and capacity performance on its new next-generation mobile network, which is scheduled to launch commercially in December this year. (See DoCoMo's LTE Warm-Up and DoCoMo Shells Out on LTE.)

But he was not certain that LTE femtos will be ready in time to meet DoCoMo's schedule.

"We're looking for which LTE femtos are available by this timeframe," said Yasuda. "We are receiving some proposals but have not decided yet."

Equipment availability is one problem that could thwart DoCoMo's LTE femto plan, but another is the potential strain on DoCoMo's engineering resources that could result from introducing such a new radio access network architecture.

"Personally, I would like to launch [LTE femtos] at the same time as [LTE] macrocells," said Yasuda. "But my teammates are busy launching macrocells. So it could be difficult to launch at the same time."

So which vendors can serve up the LTE femtos in time? NEC Corp. (Tokyo: 6701), which is already one of DoCoMo's LTE vendors, has revealed plans for an LTE home base station that will be available for friendly user trials at the end of 2011, and a commercial product is expected in 2012. (See NEC Preps LTE Femto, NEC Supplies More LTE to DoCoMo, and NEC Ships LTE Equipment to DoCoMo.)

Other vendors that are involved in DoCoMo's LTE rollout that could have a shot at meeting the carrier's next-gen femto demands are Fujitsu Ltd. (Tokyo: 6702; London: FUJ; OTC: FJTSY), Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), and Nokia Networks , and Stoke Inc. , which supplies an LTE base station aggregation gateway to the Japanese operator. (See Stokin' Up Mobile Data Offload, Stoke Lands LTE Gig at DoCoMo, Stoke Scores Second DoCoMo Deal, and Stoke Secures $15M Funding.)

DoCoMo's current femto vendor is Mitsubishi, which supplies little 3G home base stations to DoCoMo for its MyArea service that launched in November 2009. (See DoCoMo to Upgrade Its Femtos.)

DoCoMo's Yasuda said that when the carrier wants to deploy LTE femtos in the 2011-2012 timeframe, it will have deployed 1,500 LTE macrocell base stations during 2010 and 2011. By 2013, it plans to cover 30 percent of the population with LTE. By 2014, DoCoMo plans to cover 70 percent of the population with 15,000 LTE base stations.

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Light Reading Mobile

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