Most commentary on femtocells starts from the perspective of the device as a home accessory, an add-on. That’s reasonable – femto is new technology, and many of the first launches are promoted as a fix for poor indoor coverage.
But here’s another way of looking at the technology. Femtocell-powered small cells (in homes, offices, public spaces and outdoors) provide the last piece to complete the founding vision of mobile – the mobile phone as a truly universal personal communications device.
So how can femtocell technology help to realise the vision of universal mobile?
- By making mobile the first choice for home calling
People are gradually giving up landline calling at home: it’s a global trend. And most people find using their mobile more convenient for making calls. But for the majority, making the switch to mobile requires a much higher level of confidence in service reliability and voice quality that would be considered acceptable outside. Femtocell technology provides the dependable mobile service, and does so at low cost, potentially removing the commercial barriers to going mobile as well. That’s before femto-specific features like presence-triggered call routing are factored in.
- By making mobile the first choice at work
Companies want to improve productivity and flexibility by cutting the ties to desk phones (and PCs). Enterprise femtocell networks make this possible by providing complete high-quality mobile throughout the building at a very low call cost, and providing the PBX and conference features that companies rely on.
- By fixing coverage cold-spots
There have always been places where the population is too sparse, where visitors are too infrequent, or where the radio terrain is too challenging, meaning that providing a mobile service is simply uneconomical. Femtocell-powered small cells provide coverage at a fraction of the cost of traditional small basestations, and can use any IP link for backhaul, including low-bandwidth rural broadband and satellite.
All three of these solutions are being rolled out by forward-looking operators today. They have the potential to complete the vision of universal mobile, which will in turn fundamentally change our relationship with our mobile devices.
I deliberately haven’t mentioned mobile data services here, despite femtocells and small cells having a central part to play. That’s a different story, with a different set of technical and commercial drivers. You can also read about our latest work with Intel on Edge Cloud services here.