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Crisis temporarily slows femtocell deployments

Posted: 24 Mar 2009     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:femtocell deployments  mobile operators  femtocell 

The global economic downturn is among the factors causing the delay of large-scale femtocell deployments expected by major mobile operators—a slowdown that is only temporary, according to a study by ABI Research.

According to senior analyst Aditya Kaul, revised 2009 estimates project shipments at slightly less than a million. "Femtocell rollouts to date have been limited, controlled ones," he said. "But ABI Research expects that 2010 will see shipments climbing well above a million units."

Why the optimism amid so much gloom?

"The signs are there that vendors are gearing up for a big push," said Kaul. "For example, picoChip, one of the industry's main silicon suppliers, recently announced a multi-million dollar injection of funding, probably geared towards a ramp-up. There is a lot of similar activity behind the scenes, and new partnerships that point to preparation for a major market expansion."

Femtocell investment can be done in stages with fairly low entry points, making it easier to justify in a tight financial market.

The starting gun for this race will be an announcement, which ABI Research expects to come late in 2009 or early 2010, of a multi-city commercial femtocell deployment by one of the major mobile operators. That, according to Kaul, may encourage other operators to follow suit.

There are, however, near-term challenges facing vendors and operators alike.

Price is one. ABI Research believes that although femtocell business models could be enabled at various price points, the psychological barrier of a Rs.4,971.92 ($100) femtocell cannot be overlooked. Low-cost femtocells are essential to bridge the gap between niche market and mass-market deployments.

Also, until now, large-scale deployments have only been simulated in computer models: real-world rollouts could pose challenges.

Nonetheless, according to Kaul, "These challenges are all valid, but none of them are show-stoppers. There's no 'elephant in the room' that will pose a major obstacle to large-scale deployment."

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