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Industry News

3G Femtocells Now Outnumber Conventional 3G Basestations Globally

Operator deployments grow 60% in last quarter to 31 including eight of the top 10 global mobile operator groups

June 21, 2011
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Informa Telecoms & Media issued its latest femtocell market status report which revealed that there are now in excess of 2.3 million 3G femtocells globally compared to 1.6 million 3G macrocells, highlighting the growing popularity of the technology. There are now 31 commercial femtocell services worldwide which represents over 60% growth in deployments in the past quarter alone. This market growth is reflected in the fact that eight of the top 10 mobile operator groups (by revenue) now offer femtocell services, which includes AT&T Group, France Telecom Group, NTT DOCOMO Group, Sprint, Telefonica Group, Deutsche Telecom Group, Verizon Wireless and Vodafone Group. Furthermore, in the vast majority of these markets, the devices now outnumber all generations of cell sites.

Informa forecasts this growth to continue with 48 million access points in use globally by 2014. Where last quarter Informa noted the recent growth in enterprise femtocell usage, this quarter has been notable due to the growth in femtocells for public access, especially as a means for speeding up mobile broadband in busy areas as exemplified by SK Telecom’s pure data offload strategy. The technology is also expected to grow in 4G networks with 60% of operators believing that small cells will be more important than macrocells for an effective LTE deployment strategy according to a recent Informa survey.

“Femtocells haven’t just passed a major milestone - it is now apparent that they are rapidly becoming less of a differentiator for service providers and more like an essential offering. Consumers are increasingly going to expect something that for a long time seemed impossible - near ubiquitous coverage for voice and high speed data. Femtocells make this a very real possibility,” said Dimitris Mavrakis, Senior Analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media.

Furthermore, the past quarter has also seen important progress in femtocell technology. The first industry-wide agreed set of API specifications for advanced mobile applications based on femtocell technology have been published. The API provides awareness information so developers can incorporate enhanced presence, context and location-sensitive features into new and existing apps, and can also take advantage of the lower cost and faster data connections enabled by femtocells.

The expansion of the femtocell industry is also reflected in the growing membership of the Femto Forum, the femtocell industry association, which now includes 74 vendors and 63 mobile operators representing over 1.71 billion mobile subscribers worldwide, across multiple wireless technologies (WiMAX, UMTS and CDMA) and accounts for 33% of total mobile subscribers worldwide.

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