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Femtocells World Summit 2010: Reality Check


I’m slowly returning to the real world after attending the Femtocells World Summit in London last week.  Thought I better get down some impressions before I lose the aura of the conference entirely.  It was an exciting conference packed with the who’s who in the femto industry – and the message was clear:  Femto has arrived globally.  Operators were discussing not only successful trials, but successful commercial deployments.

AT&T used the platform to announce the completion of nationwide deployment of their 3G MicroCell service.  Vodafone showed an amusing customer video of how femto changed the life of an IT consultant living in a basement flat in Edinburgh. SoftBank discussed the business case for giving 400,000 free femto devices to the 2% of its customer base that receives no 3G coverage at home – the same model they used when rolling out DSL. And Cellcom EVP Rob Riordan pushed the envelope by focusing on the new unified communications business services that can be offered from a femto architecture, including Mobile PBX. Informa announced that commercial deployments have doubled just since November. The growth may not match the hockey stick charts that seem to be part of every new technology launch hype, but the growth is clear and strong.

It’s also clear that business models are still being worked out, and some of the conference buzz was around data caps and the concern that the operational advantages of using femto for 3G offload might be mitigated by lawful intercept regulations in the US and other countries that requires traffic in licensed spectrum to be managed by the operator.  The difference is that, instead of theory, these are now real world issues that are being monitored and addressed in live networks.  As AT&T’s Executive Director for Radio Access Network Gordon Mansfield noted, the traffic offload issue is currently being tackled by standards bodies.  And some of the femto standards work is moving faster than ever, as we’ve watched Iuh move from a standard in early 2009 to a demonstration at last year’s show, to an announced deployment by Mosaic Telecom this year.

Speaking of Gordon, the highlight of the conference was the Femtocells Industry Awards dinner, where the AT&T 3G MicroCell service won the award for Best Commercial Launch, and Gordon Mansfield was singled out for the prestigious Individual Contribution to the FemFF141.jpgto Forum Award as the as the individual who has made the single biggest difference to the progress of the Forum.  It was great to see Gordon recognized for his tireless work both inside AT&T and more broadly in the femto industry.  The judges also noted that “AT&T’s 3G MicroCell deployment with Cisco caught the judges’ eyes for two crucial reasons. First and foremost, it emphasised the importance of the customer at the heart of the femtocell experience, positioning technology very much as an enabler, rather than an end in itself. Secondly, the deployment is on a national scale, which given the US market’s size adds an additional layer of complexity.”

Congratulations Gordon.  In the words of Oscar Wilde “Society exists only as a mental concept; in the real world there are only individuals.”

1 Comment

Thanks Lisa - a fun and informative read.

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