The AT&T 3G Microcell manufactured by Cisco

Does your cell phone signal cut out just as you enter your home? A femtocell may be the answer.

A new report from Strategy Analytics (Newton, MA) and its RF & Wireless Component market research service estimates that shipments of femtocells, a signal-booster for improved cellular coverage, are on track to reach almost two million units this year, creating opportunities for radio components over the next five years.

Femtocells are small cellular base stations connected to your mobile network through your broadband internet service (such as DSL or FIOS). “Whereas wireless routers enable you to connect your computers to the internet wirelessly,” says the report author Christopher Taylor, “femtocell technology enables you to connect your cell phone to your network where signal is weak, such as in your home. Femtocells reduce the need for wireless operators to install more base stations (macrocells) by reducing traffic through the base station.”

The report, “Small is Beautiful: Femtocells Set To Grow with New Applications,” explores the future market for RF power amplifiers (PAs), transceivers, and basebands in femtocells. According to Taylor, “So far, demand has come from consumers with poor indoor cellular coverage, but in the future, an increasing proportion of femtocells will go into small-to-medium-sized enterprises and public-access applications, the traditional realm of picocells and microcells.”

For now, to obtain five bars of 3G service at your home, where the reach of the device is similar to that of a wireless router, it’ll cost you. In 2007, Sprint introduced its Airave for Spring phones, built by Samsung Electronics. The Airave (which does not offer 3G capacity) now sells for $99.99 plus a $4.99 monthly service. The 3G Microcell from AT&T Wireless, which entered public trials in April for most AT&T customers, goes for $150 in addition to a calling plan. The equipment is made by Cisco Systems and was the first 3G femtocell in the US, supporting both voice and data. Verizon upped the game last month when it rolled out its 3G Wireless Network Extender for Verizon phones, its second generation femtocell for $249.99 (with no extra monthly fee beyond the calling plan). Vodaphone is also undergoing public trials in Egypt and Europe for its 3G femtocell, which goes for $263 (195).

The manufacturer’s Bill of Materials for radio chips is now under $50, says Taylor, so add some mechanical plastic bits and labor, and the cost point for wide-spread commercial 3G availability could be coming down soon.

Please share your thoughts and feedback on femtocells.


Featured femtocell whitepaper:

MobilEdge Access Node by Sonus Networks: Leverage femtocell and picocell technology at the edge of the wireless core network for powerful wireless coverage.

Femtocell Solutions presented by Aricent: prepackaged software and extensive lifecycle services to enable quickly development and deployment of  femtocell solutions.

Featured femtocell products:

The Trillium wireless protocol software from Continuous Computing: a complete protocol solution for the dynamic Femtocell Access Point (Home NodeB) market.

The HubBub UMTS Femtocell by Airvana delivers 7.2 Mbps HSDPA and 1.4 Mbps HSUPA standard data speeds in addition to four voice calls.

Vodaphone femtocell

The Vodaphone femtocell

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