Small cells

Second-Gen Silicon Drives Enterprise & Public Femtos

Wireless carriers that initially looked for residential femtocells are finding that the latest silicon makes femtocells ideal for office and public spaces as well. Highly integrated devices, using 40nm technology, with control processor and multimode baseband supporting Long Term Evolution (LTE), as well as 2G/3G, are changing the market. By using femtocell access points built with these devices carriers can dramatically improve bandwidth and coverage within businesses and public hot spots at costs significantly below conventional base station deployments.

Femtocells were initially developed for residential applications, allowing subscribers to connect locally within homes that were poorly served by their carrier's main wireless infrastructure. There have been significant developments since femtocell development was started in 2007, and Informa Telecoms & Media recently reported that there are more than 2.3 million 3G femtocells globally. In parallel with residential deployments, carriers are also planning femtocells for enterprise and public environments. These femtocells are larger and more capable than the residential femtocells currently deployed.

At this critical time, the latest issue of Heavy Reading Components Insider, "Femtocell Technology Enables Small Cell Wireless Revolution," analyzes the availability of femtocell silicon devices and reviews the importance of software and end-to-end solution providers. The report reviews component availability, features and performance, and profiles 16 vendors including silicon, software, IP and end-to-end solution providers in this key market.

With first-generation femtocells deployed in the network, there is a diverging market for femtocell solutions. Carriers deploying residential femtocells require lower-cost solutions with support for a limited number of subscribers and a single network, usually 3G. This will be addressed by home gateways with integrated femtocell technology. Carriers deploying femtocells in enterprises and public spaces require many more subscribers, full network management and multi-mode support for 2G, 3G and LTE. Standalone femtocell access points are addressing this.

Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM), Picochip and Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM) are all shipping femtocell silicon. Second-generation silicon that will support 3G and LTE, ideal for enterprise femtocells, will be available by the end of 2011 from DesignArt Networks , Freescale Semiconductor Inc. , Picochip and Texas Instruments Inc. (NYSE: TXN). These second-generation solutions integrate significant control and multimode baseband processing. Network backhaul to the carrier is through Gigabit Ethernet links.

The development of femtocells has seen significant cooperation among software developers, silicon developers and system developers. Technology leaders ip.access Ltd. and Ubiquisys Ltd. have developed software to control femtocell radio access. Both companies use third-party silicon devices for enterprise solutions and license designs for residential femtocells to numerous customers. Aricent Inc. , Continuous Computing Corp. and Enea AB have protocol stacks and other software available for femtocell development. Node-H GmbH and mimoOn GmbH have developed LTE software.

Home gateways are expected to be the next wave of residential femtocell deployment. These solutions require significant software and hardware integration, including 3G baseband, application processor, Wi-Fi, and DSL or cable modem. Several vendors groups are working on home gateway solutions, including Broadcom and Ubiquisys.

Femtocell deployments are growing quickly as more carriers see the advantages they bring to subscribers and carriers alike with enhanced coverage, greater network bandwidth and cost-effective implementations. The femtocell market is splitting into two paths, and the ecosystem is responding accordingly. Second-generation femtocell silicon is enabling cost-effective enterprise access points, and vendors are licensing femtocell software and designs for both enterprise and residential applications. Radio access has been a key technology for first-generation femtocell solutions, and this will continue; however, further standardization of femtocell specifications and interoperability will reduce the competitive advantage this brings in the future.

— Simon Stanley, Analyst, Heavy Reading Components Insider

This report, Femtocell Technology Enables Small Cell Wireless Revolution, is available for $1,595. For more information, please visit: www.heavyreading.com/commchip.

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