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UK Femto Firm Bags $15M

Michelle Donegan
LR Mobile News Analysis
Michelle Donegan
12/13/2011
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U.K.-based femtocell company ip.access Ltd. has raised $15 million from its existing investors and an unnamed "major new backer." (See ip.access Raises $15M.)

The company's existing investors -- Amadeus Capital Partners Ltd. , Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Intel Capital , Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM), Rothschild & Cie Gestion, Scottish Equity Partners and TE Connectivity (NYSE: TEL) -- all participated in the latest funding round. The identity of the new investor was not disclosed.

ip.access, along with its partner Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), is at the heart of AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)'s 3G Microcell branded service, which is considered to be one of, if not the, biggest residential femtocell deployments around. But where does the company go from there? (See UK Femto Firm Fired Up for Growth .)

The new funds will be used for product development as well as for geographical expansion, according to Andy Tiller, ip.access senior VP of product strategy and marketing. "We're finding a lot of opportunities in Asia, and the Middle East and Africa [are] important as well."

As for technology development, Tiller said one area of focus for the company will be on outdoor small cell deployments and particularly the automation that's required in the network to enable the small cells to be deployed on a large scale, such as in the tens of thousands. Small cells are deployed in outdoor environments today, but there is manual configuration involved, he explained.

"That's the problem the industry is grappling with now," he said.

Why this matters
The fact that investors are willing to pump funds into a company that was founded back in 1999 shows that the market for small cells -- in all their various forms -- is still viewed as a potential opportunity for growth and is attracting new investors.

The company's expansion from residential and enterprise 2G and 3G femtocells to outdoor small cell deployments is also interesting in that it indicates increasing operator demand for such capacity-boosting base stations.

For more
Here's the latest news from ip.access:



— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Light Reading Mobile

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Michelle Donegan
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Michelle Donegan,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:46:40 PM
re: UK Femto Firm Bags $15M


So, who is this mystery investor?

digits
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digits,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:46:32 PM
re: UK Femto Firm Bags $15M


Could it be Mitt Romney? He has lots of money, right?

optodoofus
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optodoofus,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:46:31 PM
re: UK Femto Firm Bags $15M


I had heard that 2009 was the year of the femtocell.  And then, 2010 was the year of the femtocell.  But, then 2011 was definitely the year of the femtocell.  So, why exactly is it that ip.access (and all the other wannabes in the femtocell business) are still taking new investments and not generating significant revenues or even - gasp - profit?


Is it possible that femtocells are just over-hyped and are never going to deliver on their promise?  As each "year of the femtocell" goes by with no real progress, it looks more and more likely that it ain't never gonna happen.  If only the Femto Forum could deliver on that femtocell-enabled doorbell they talked about two years ago!  I'm sure that would make a difference.


optodoofus

Pete Baldwin
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Pete Baldwin,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:46:26 PM
re: UK Femto Firm Bags $15M


You're just looking at it wrong: 2012 is the REAL Year of the Femtocell. Maybe. Possibly. Sort of.  :)

macster
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macster,
User Rank: Light Bulb
12/5/2012 | 4:45:35 PM
re: UK Femto Firm Bags $15M


2012 is the year of "coverage" (pun intended). FF and such will talk about their "HetNet", with small cells, pico cells, femtos, nanocells, one-size-fits-all cells and whatnot. After all, according to PicoChip, how many small cells needed for London? 70k? :-) A name change even, which will annoy "certain" vendors.


If you ever wanted leverage over traditional vendors, what better way than to tout a $100 home NodeB and compare its price to say, a $10k carrier-grade small cell?


Don't really want to comment on individual femto players and the abysmal indoor coverage in the US (read AT&T).


Some good did come out of it all though. There's standardised management (no vendor specific headache), things like SIPTO (which I think is great for off-loading unwanted traffic but no one seems to really pick up on this, cloud packet core anyone?) and "local" femto gateways.


The gist? 2012 will see "femto promise" replaced with (or should it be replaced by?) "small cell promise". Everyone will try to capitalise on this - in every sense.


Best wishes for 2012.


 


-Cam


 

rhr
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rhr,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:45:34 PM
re: UK Femto Firm Bags $15M
I hope adherents of femtocells come on here and argue their case.-á

I just can't see the point of large scale femtocell deployments. How many pieces of kit do people want in their home? And then there is the magic of Wi-Fi, a unassuming technology that offers so much and is a standard part of handsets, home hubs and gadgets.-á

Shouldn't the effort be going into advancing Wi-Fi which proved itself a long ago? Surely a better return in investment.
macster
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macster,
User Rank: Light Bulb
12/5/2012 | 4:45:34 PM
re: UK Femto Firm Bags $15M


It's one box. Femtos are meant to improve indoor coverage. Operators will eventully have to give them out for free. After all, they're already doing an "IKEA" and outsourcing backhaul costs to their customers - lol!


Good for voice. For data? If you're at home, in front of the tele with smartphone in hand, would you surf using your home WiFi or HSPA? Well, the two main things are:

<ol>
<li>Perceived QoE using the home WiFi (through fixed broadband provider) compared to mobile (femto).</li>
<li>Charges. I don't have a cap on my Sky broadband. OK, I also don't have a mobile cap as I use 3UK (which I'm sure will bite them in the behind soon enough), but there's a cap on mobile data usage.</li>
</ol>

Some may say that femtos are useful for analytics, i.e. control/signalling go through femto to core while traffic off-loaded as early as possible.


Initial LTE deployment in a place like the UK will concentrate on high data usage hotspots. Small cells are useful for this.&nbsp;No matter how much some ppl want it to be, femto != small cell.


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