Small cells

MWC Rumor: AT&T Eyes Q2 Femto Launch, Enterprise Suppliers

BARCELONA -- Mobile World Congress -- There's a veritable fountain of AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)-related femtocell rumors bubbling under the surface here in Spain, even as the carrier itself is mostly silent on future home base-station plans.

AT&T has launched a limited trial of 3G femtocells in the U.S., using Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) kit for its initial explorations into the market. The carrier first undertook a soft launch of the mini cell towers, which are designed to boost voice coverage and data capacity in the home, last fall. (See Cisco Femto Spotted at AT&T and Look for AT&T's Femto 'Soft Launch' Soon.)

AT&T says it is still tweaking the service provisioning system of the trial femtos so that a user can plug a unit in and get it up and running with minimal fuss. "We're close," Gordon Mansfield, AT&T's executive director for radio access network delivery, said at the show, allowing that it may only be a matter of weeks before the carrier is confident the system is tweaked and ready. (See MWC 2010: AT&T Mum on Femto Launch Date.)

Nonetheless, a source here in Barcelona tells Light Reading Mobile that commercial launch of consumer femtocells could happen in the second quarter. The operator is rumored to have now extended the trials to Las Vegas, with San Francisco and Los Angeles on the list for next month.

AT&T's Mansfield did reveal in his chat that the operator is interested in extending its reach in this market with enterprise femtocells and tiny radios to boost coverage in public spaces.

Our source says AT&T's enterprise femto plans are already taking shape. The operator is said to have an RFP out now that will be decided soon. The vendor that wins could also be named as the second supplier for AT&T's consumer femtocells.

The Staff, Light Reading Mobile

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