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Small cells

Femto Watch: Vodafone Means Business in Spain

The activity is picking up on the femto front as Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD) and KDDI Corp. launch new services in Spain and Japan, respectively.

  • Vodafone España S.A. has launched a commercial femtocell service in Spain targeted at enterprise customers, using femto access points from Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. This is Vodafone's second European femtocell after the Sure Signal service in the UK, but it's quite different. In Spain, the service is for business customers and can only be used with a Vodafone ADSL connection, whereas Sure Signal is available to consumers and works with any operator's broadband service. (See Vodafone RFP Fuels Femtocells, Vodafone Dreams of Metro Femto, Vodafone Revs Femto Engine, and Brits Get Femtos From July 1 .)

  • In Japan, KDDI Corp. will be the latest operator to offer femtos when it launches its service on July 1. But the operator will deploy the little 3G base stations by sending technicians to homes or offices to measure the radio frequency coverage and install the femto, rather than allowing customers to do it themselves. There is still no plug-and-play, do-it-yourself installation option for femtocell users in Japan. (See KDDI Tests Airvana's 3G Femtos, Who Does What: Femtocell Services, DoCoMo to Upgrade Its Femtos, and NEC, Ubiquisys Win Softbank Femto Deal.)

    According to Mike McFarland, director of marketing and business development at Airvana Inc. , which supplies KDDI's femtos with Hitachi Ltd. (NYSE: HIT; Paris: PHA), the femto service will be available only to the operator's au Hikari fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) customers and technicians will be dispatched within 48 hours of a customer's request for the device. He explains that a regulation, which allowed only qualified technicians to install radio access equipment, has been changed but that operators are being conservative with their interpretations of the new rule. (See Japanese Femto Rules.)

  • So much for femto offload from AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)? Current Analysis research director Peter Jarich points out that data traffic on AT&T's Microcell femto service counts toward users' data usage quotas under the operator's new mobile data price plans. Disruptive Analysis Ltd. 's Dean Bubley writes, "If I was a femto vendor today, I'd be spitting feathers about this, as it completely undermines the positioning vs. WiFi as an offload tool." AT&T had not responded to Light Reading Mobile's questions as this article was published. (See AT&T Intros Mobile Data Caps, Capping the Data Gusher, and 5 Mobile Apps That Bust Data Caps.)

  • Femtocell chipmaker Picochip put femtos on the network signaling map with the addition of a new feature for its picoXcell platform called smartSignaling. It enables a femtocell to support up to 400 "always on" users and can increase handset battery life. This is particularly relevant for femtos deployed in the enterprise or public hotspots. (See picoChip Tackles 3G Signalling, iPhone Troubles Might Go Beyond Signaling, What if Capacity Isn't AT&T's iPhone Problem?, and iPhone: Could Multitasking Increase 3G Woes?)

  • And picoChip's co-founder and former COO, Peter Claydon, has just joined another UK wireless startup called Deltenna Ltd. , reports EE Times. The Sillicon South West newsletter first broke the story. Claydon left picoChip at the end of last year. Deltenna makes frequency re-banders, antennas, and a 3G router.

    — Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Light Reading Mobile

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