SFR’s Femto Riposte

9:00 AM -- Unstrung reported recently that the French market looks ideal for femtocells, and our sources told us that SFR was just months away from a soft launch. (See France Is Favorite for Femto First .)

We met SFR’s network solution director, Thierry Berthouloux, at the Femtocell Europe 2008 conference, and he wanted to set the record straight.

“We have no plan for a launch,” he said. That’s pretty clear (and he said it more than once). In fact, Berthouloux told us that SFR has actually put its RFQ process on hold until femto standards and vendor support for the standards are clearer. (See Operators Feel Femto Frustration.)

Berthouloux also said that our sources were not right about Neuf Cegetel Group (Euronext: NEUF) leading the femto charge and that the femtocell project was actually led by SFR. He implied that Neuf Cegetel’s fixed/mobile convergence (FMC) dualmode service, TWIN, which was launched in May 2006, complicated the operator’s femto pursuit.

“How do you position femtocell when you have [FMC]? You have to kill it and then say, here [is the femto service],” he said.

And Berthouloux has some demanding targets on femto prices. He said a standalone femtocell needs to cost between €60 ($95) and €80 ($126) and that a femto module that would be integrated in a residential gateway needs to cost less than €50 ($79). Those prices are a little ways off yet. According to Heavy Reading, the bill of materials for a femtocell module (before software costs) is expected to come down to about $50 toward the second half of 2009. (See PicoChip Unveils Low-Cost Femto Chip.)

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Unstrung

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