Femtocells may usher in next-gen mobile networks

The Femto Forum believes femtocells could help speed the arrival of next-generation mobile-broadband networks, such as WiMax and LTE
Written by Natasha Lomas, Contributor

Femtocells could help speed the arrival of next-generation mobile-broadband networks, such as WiMax and LTE (long-term evolution), the future roadmap of 3G.

Industry association body the Femto Forum and operator community group the Next Generation Mobile Networks (NGMN) Alliance have announced they will work together to ensure the DSL-piggybacking technology works with next-generation mobile networks from the beginning, rather than being integrated into them later on.

Taking this approach means the technology could be used to help build out next-generation networks — providing coverage and capacity quickly, and at a lower cost than if an operator had to construct a fully fledged network before launching any services.

Simon Saunders, chairman of the Femto Forum, explained: "As early adopters find LTE interesting or WiMax interesting they can be provided with both a terminal — a user device, say a next-generation mobile data card or a USB dongle or whatever — and a next-generation network femtocell at the same time."

"So they can have that service very early on in the technology lifecycle and they can use that to get really good services when they're at home, where a large proportion of the highest rate usage tends to happen," Saunders said.

He added: "That can help the operator to deliver a service long before they've actually rolled out the next-generation network over a very wide area. So the traditional way you roll out cellular networks, where you… have to spend a lot on your network before there's any revenues, has the opportunity to be turned on its head."

The two bodies said they will work together to define technology requirements, and make recommendations which will then be converted into solutions to be developed within the Femto Forum and promoted jointly.

Saunders added: "It isn't a technology that we think is specific to just one of the flavours of mobile air interface — UMTS or GSM or CDMA or WiMax, for that matter — we actually think femtocells bring things to all those technologies."

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