Small cells

Who Does What: Femtocell Services

Femtocells are among the most hyped and divisive technologies to hit the wireless industry. Now that these little indoor base stations have started to make their way into operators' networks, Light Reading Mobile has compiled a list of all the commercial femtocell services that are available today.

It's a short list. To date, only 10 operators offer commercial femtocell services.

In August 2008, Light Reading Mobile reported that early 2010 would be a critical period for femtocells as operators would decide how and when to ramp up trials to full-blown commercial services, based on an operator survey conducted by Heavy Reading. The majority of operators surveyed said they expected to launch commercial services in 2010 or 2011. (See 2010: Year of the Femto.)

In this Who Does What report, Light Reading Mobile tracks the first commercial femtocell rollouts and digs in to the operators' service strategies and future femto plans.

Why now, when femto deployments are so few and so small scale? Because the home base station industry is on the verge of maturing. An analysis of who offers femto services and why will provide some insight into how this market will develop.

Today, the driver for femtocells is clearly voice and data coverage. Nearly all of the operators on our list use femtocells today just to provide better indoor cellular coverage in homes or offices. NTT DoCoMo Inc. (NYSE: DCM) is the only operator that has positioned its femto service, called MyArea, to be more than just a coverage booster. (See DoCoMo to Upgrade Its Femtos.)

Not all readers will agree with our list of commercial femto services; and, admittedly, it is difficult to distinguish when a service is really commercial or an extension of a user trial. For example, we have included AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and China Unicom Ltd. (NYSE: CHU) on our list because their services are used by real customers, even though on a limited basis. Others could argue that these services are pilots, not serious commercial offerings.

As with previous Who Makes What and Who Does What reports, we ask you to help us complete the picture. If there are services or trials that we missed, or if there is information here that is inaccurate, please tell us on the message boards or send an email to [email protected], and we'll update the information. (See Who Makes What: LTE Equipment and Who Makes What: Femtocells.)

Here’s a hyperlinked list of contents:

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Light Reading Mobile

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