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Industry News

Research Finds Improved Indoor Wireless Coverage Drives Femtocell Interest

January 12, 2011
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The Femto Forum and international research firm Parks Associates today announced that femtocells, small wireless base stations designed to provide five bars of local wireless signal strength, are climbing up global consumers’ “want” lists as determined by the most comprehensive survey to date of consumer attitudes toward femtocells in developed markets. The survey, which included 6,100 consumers across six countries (China, Germany, Japan, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States), found that nearly 60% of broadband households with mobile phones are interested in femtocells, with improved indoor voice coverage serving as the leading driver for interest. Further findings show that femtocells could prevent large numbers of consumers from changing carriers due to poor voice coverage, while also strongly appealing to heavy mobile data customers.

The survey revealed that not only is the quality of in-building voice services the chief driver for femtocells, it is also the single most important criteria by which consumers rate their mobile operator. The improvement that femtocells bring to voice services could prevent up to 42% of consumers currently considering leaving their operator from doing so. Furthermore, 18% of consumers are willing to switch to an operator offering femtocells and 36% of consumers in multicarrier households might switch carriers in order to consolidate with a single provider offering the service.

The findings also show that heavy mobile Wi-Fi users are among the most interested in femtocells, with approximately 83% finding them appealing. This finding contradicts the notion that Wi-Fi alone resolves all indoor coverage issues, and can be attributed to femtocells’ abilities to improve voice coverage and preserve battery life. In fact, heavy mobile data users of all descriptions were so interested in the technology that they were willing to pay the most for femtocell services among all surveyed.

Among those who wanted femtocells, 68% found at least one advanced femtocell service either very or extremely appealing. Such services include Virtual Home Number, which rings every cell phone in the home, or Family Alerts, which warn when a subscriber such as a child or elderly relative has left or returned home.

“Despite the survey covering mature mobile markets, the results show that consumers’ biggest concern remains the most basic one – voice coverage. This is not only driving significant interest in femtocells, it is also the central reason why most consumers switch wireless operators,” said Harry Wang, director of mobile product research, Parks Associates. “However, the appeal of femtocells clearly extends beyond improved coverage. A significant number of users are very excited by the advanced services enabled by femtocells, indicating that the appeal extends widely. Beyond this, heavy users of mobile data are both the most interested in femtocells and the most likely to pay for the service.”

“This research underscores the importance that femtocells will have on a global scale, and is a clear indicator of the widespread adoption that we can expect in the coming year as consumers become more aware of them,” said Simon Saunders, chairman of the Femto Forum. “Already in the US, femtocells outnumber outdoor cell towers, with subscribers installing these plug-and-play access points to greatly improve wireless coverage in their homes and offices. And, while coverage is a key benefit, there are a variety of other advantages that femtocells enable including improved battery life and faster data speeds that will allow for advanced consumer applications and services.”

The survey also underlined interesting regional variations. For example, survey participants in China were most aware of femtocell technology and also found it most attractive with 81% of those surveyed finding femtocells either very or extremely appealing. Japan was the only market in which the leading driver for femtocells among survey respondents was not improved voice coverage but rather faster data speeds.

The Femto Forum commissioned Parks Associates to conduct this custom multi-country consumer research in six nations. The survey covered 6,100 broadband heads of household who were all 18 or over and had an equal or greater share in household decisions. A slidepack summarizing the detailed results is now available from the Femto Forum web site (www.femtoforum.org). The Fetmo Forum was at this months Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas and plans to be at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February.

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