27 Nov 2008

Femtocells: Small is Beautiful

It's bizarre that some are talking about a 16 call femtocell. The whole idea of a femtocell is that it's a compact consumer device that provides adequate coverage and capacity within the home or place of work. Having a 16 call femtocell at home or in a shop is like driving your own bus to work everyday. It will get you to work, inefficiently, painfully and probably late...

My view is that what is often flagged as a high capacity femtocell is a re-branded picocell. This is because some vendors got the wrong end of the stick when they assumed that a femtocell is simply a downsized picocell, so they picked their existing picocell products, massaged transmission power and capacity to make it feel like a femtocell, and then branded it as a femtocell product.

A femtocell is not about putting a transmission mast at home or work. It is not a shrunk picocell. It is not a picocell with cheap IP backhaul. I believe that the term "femtocell" should get a better and clearer definition to avoid muddying the water and confusing customers.

Nobody will gain out of reducing the femtocell race to a simple "umph" comparison. Why? because operators who examine the so-called "high capacity femtocells" closely will lose faith in the whole femtocell technology. The femtocell concept is about deploying thousands and thousands of these small cells everywhere. Potentially the number of femtocells in a network will be many folds the number of macro sites the operator owns. Operators should not be drawn into the "My femtocell is bigger and meaner than yours" rhetoric and should concentrate on what the product offers in terms of simplicity of deployement, provisioning, configuration and management.

What's the point of having thousands of high capacity small picocells "aka big and mean femto :-)" if:
1. you do not have the processes to provision them and distribute them to your consumers in an efficient and streamlined fashion?
2. you have to partially or fully configure and radio engineer each one?
3. You have to manually change their configuration every time you do an optimisation sweep on your macro network?
3. you can't manage them in volume?

It's unfortunate that some vendors have concentrated on the technology parity with traditional indoor solutions and totally ignored what is truly important and exciting about the femtocell concept.

There is an urgent need to better clarify and define what a femtocell is. I will make few attempts to do so in my next few postings.

14 comments:

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