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femto cells


FemtoCell technology basically is being developed by MAN networks – 3GPP (EGPRS/UMTS/HSPA), 3GPP2 CMDA and 802.16 WiMAX to allow existing (cheap) handsets to be used in locations like homes/offices/shops in order to provide better coverage, better in-door penetrations, improved data thru-put, location independent coverage.

femtocells are the smallest possible cells available today, designed to cover just the area of a home (similar to WiFi coverage). The small piece of equipment required serves as a router for your broadband connection and allows you to make cell phone calls from within its coverage area and “backhaul” the call to the cellular carrier’s facilities over your broadband connection.

This offers a few advantages:

1. If you are in a spotty coverage area, you will now have excellent coverage because you’re basically working within your own cell.

2. You don’t use the minutes from your plan when you’re on a femtocell; all these calls are connected over the broadband network and thus don’t take up capacity on the cellular carrier’s system, allowing them to give you unlimited calling (usually for a small monthly fee) from within your femtocell.

3. From the carrier’s perspective, it shifts the cost of – and complexity of building – their network to the consumer. Each consumer/subscriber purchases the femtocell/router (typically at a discount) and creates their own cell, expanding the coverage of the system without the carrier having to find sites, get permits, install pricey equipment, etc

In 1991 the early GSM digital systems and networks started in Germany and other Euro countries in parallel with Digital AMPS in North America. The phones got smaller, more capacity needed, minicells of various power levels got developed.

In the late 90s, microcells were needed with lower power levels covering capacity needs in small areas with many users, such as downtowns and business areas.

In the 200s, picocells for shopping malls, subway tunnels, business and universty campus areas were developed.

And now we get to what a lot of people call your own personal radio/wireless base station (sized like your personal WiFi Accesspoint or WiFi AP/router box at home or work), the femtocell.

Femtocells can come in different combo solutions, as a pure indoor 3G/GSM(AT&T/T-Mobile) or 3G/CDMA(Verizon WIreless/Sprint) radio base stations for you to get a good indoor radio signal as well as providing much better capacity in the radio network for the wrieless operator.

Femtocells can also come as a combo providing WiFi and/or WiMax. This will allow end users to use a cellular/WiFi phone and switch to WiFI automatically when at home. The UMA (WiFi/GSM type phone is an example of such a device).

Today so far, European wireless carriers are the key players experimenting with this, BT in UK is one good example. It is still too early to say who or what will be a winner in this field.





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  1. ThinkFemtocell

    I agree femtocells are an exciting new capability, providing excellent voice quality indoors and achieving high data speeds not common indoors. Although the costs of providing service via femtocells should be much lower than using outdoor cells (no need to pay site rental, power, backhaul costs etc), many of the early commercial offers still charge the same rates when making calls through them. The most active market is the US, where 3 operators offer service. Here in the UK, Vodafone is the only provider and have been actively marketing the service with heavy press, billboard and radio publicity. More on this topic at http://www.thinkfemtocell.com






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