According to an operator spokesman, the carrier will have 3G femtocells as part of its product portfolio in 2011. The spokesman could neither provide a time frame for a market launch nor name the equipment suppliers because the operator is still in the process of selecting vendors.
Why this matters
T-Mobile is the last of the big U.S. mobile operators to offer 3G femtos. Rivals AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) and Verizon Wireless already offer the home base stations to improve customers' indoor voice coverage. Another launch by a large US operator would be good news for the young femtocell industry, signaling further operator acceptance of this coverage boosting tool. (See Femto Watch: Verizon Launches 3G Femto , CTIA 2010: AT&T Femtos Go Commercial in April, Where Is the Sprint 3G Femtocell? and More 3G Femtos Coming to the US.)
A U.S. femto launch could also indicate a shift in T-Mobile's attitude to femtocells, depending on how large the operator's plans are. At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last year, Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT) (T-Mobile's parent) CTO Oliver Baujard told Light Reading Mobile that the operator had no mass-market plans for femtocells. (See Orange, T-Mobile Go Slow on Femtos .)
It's possible that T-Mobile has been holding out for a femto access point that will support its HSPA+ 21Mbit/s network. Commercially deployed UMTS femtos, like AT&T's 3G Microcell, support up to 7.2Mbit/s and are not software upgradeable to HSPA+. It is expected that HSPA+ femtos will be available sometime this year. (See T-Mobile's HSPA+ Rivals Clearwire, US LTE Speeds, T-Mobile HSPA+ Smartphone Due in September , T-Mobile Leaves AT&T in Its HSPA+ Dust , T-Mobile Hangs Growth Hopes on HSPA+ in US and MWC 2010: T-Mob's 3G Speed Race.)
And plans for a future launch must mean that competition is fierce among femto vendors to win the T-Mobile deal in the U.S. So, who is likely to be in the frame? ip.access Ltd. , for one. The U.K. femto firm supplies AT&T's 3G Microcell with partner Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and with chipsets from Picochip , and it counts T-Mobile USA as its largest customer for GSM picocells.
Other potential suppliers include Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. and Ubiquisys Ltd. , in which T-Mobile Venture Fund is a strategic investor.
T-Mobile has been active in femtocells for some time with early trials as well as investments in U.K. femto company Ubiquisys and femto chipset startup Percello Ltd. , which was recently acquired by Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM).
- T-Mobile Invests in Femto Firm
- T-Mobile Joins Google
- T-Mobile Trials Femtos
- T-Mobile Backs Femto Chip Startup
- Everything Everywhere Does Femtos
- Survey Finds Interest in Femtocells
- Who Does What: Femtocell Services
— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Light Reading Mobile