Roke Manor Research claims to have developed the world’s first 3G Wide Area Coverage Femtocell capability. Using picoChip’s technology as the development platform, Roke’s reference design has a 40 km range, which delivers more than 40,000 times the area covered by most other femtocells. It is also said to be the first to support full mobility at speeds of up to 120 km/h, allowing mobile users to travel while connected to the 3G base stations.

This solution could be used to cost-effectively serve sparsely-populated rural areas that are conventionally thought of as uneconomic, or to quickly deploy cellular coverage, for example as 'instant infrastructure' to help emergency services after a natural disaster.

The new Wide Area Coverage Femtocell requires minimum infrastructure, and its small form factor significantly reduces power consumption, making it a cost-effective option for network operators. It supports up to seven simultaneous users, with Release 5 HSDPA, and a software upgrade to Release 6 HSUPA. The company has also developed custom firmware enhancements to picoChip’s industry-standard PC8208 femtocell solution.

Prasid Shah, Business Sector Manager at Roke, said, "Previously the best range femtocell technology could deliver was two kilometers, useful for wireless services on a campus, but uneconomic for network operators that would have to deploy large numbers in order to fill signal black holes in the countryside. Roke’s concept means that a reliable 3G mobile service in some of the most remote areas in the world is now a cost-effective reality for network operators, which could be a solution to help address the 'digital divide'.

He added, "As a picoChip development partner, we are delighted that our outstanding team has successfully worked with picoChip to build on their femtocell platform and to develop a truly unique technology that enables wholly new types of cellular communications service."