Cisco buys into UK femtocell firm

Ip.access — which develops small, mobile base stations — has received an undisclosed investment from the networking giant

Cisco has invested an undisclosed amount in the Cambridge-based femtocell company ip.access.

On Wednesday ip.access announced that Cisco had bought a share of the company, joining existing investors such as Scottish Equity Partners, Rothschild Gestion, Intel Capital, Amadeus Capital Partners, ADC and Motorola Ventures.

"We are delighted to have Cisco as an investor," said the chief executive of ip.access, Stephen Mallinson, in the statement. "As the worldwide leader in internet protocol-based networks, Cisco brings complementary skills and experience to address the needs of operator and consumer customers."

Femtocells are effectively small, 3G, mobile base stations that can be installed in a home or small office to route calls and mobile data usage onto a DSL-based IP network, rather than that traffic being carried over the operator's cellular network.

A larger and more established version of the same concept is the 2G picocell — already a successful product line for ip.access — which tends to be used to increase cellular coverage in larger offices.

As mobile internet use becomes more widespread, the resulting traffic has the potential to put cellular networks under strain — hence the attraction for operators in pushing femtocells out to their customers. T-Mobile announced last week that it was to trial the technology in Germany, the Netherlands and the UK in the second quarter of this year.

The technology can either be deployed through standalone units or through integration with wireless routers or set-top boxes — a far more cost-effective option.