MWC: Femtos at the Fira

Network capacity and access to devices in the home from mobile devices are going to be important features in the near future. Femtocells are an interesting solution to these challenges and ip.access has shown some interesting solutions in the past on other tradeshows which I could only watch so far on Youtube. So at this year’s MWC it was great to finally meet some people I’ve been in contact with at ip.access over time for the first time and to take a look at their femto solution first hand.

It’s so simple these days to get a demo up and running at the Mobile World Congress compared to the days when you needed E-1’s and other non standard links to equipment located somewhere else. Today, a simple Internet link does the job, inexpensive even at trade shows compared to dedicated E-1 lines. Ip.access made good use of it and had a number of live femtocells at their booth, connected to their femto controller back in Cambridge in the UK via an Internet connection in exactly the same way one would do at home. Interesting to see that they have partnered with Cisco for their first femto deployments, that’s certainly going to raise awareness.

In retrospect it seems a bit odd that I didn’t ask them if I could do a voice call on their femto, but I just believe that voice calls work, it’s the core feature. Instead, I was much more interested how mobile devices can be included in the home network via the femto cell to interact with the video and music library, the television, act as a remote control, etc. I’ve seen it in a Youtube video before but seeing it live is always different. They wouldn’t exactly tell me how the mobile is included in the local network, thus bypassing the operators network, but after seeing the demo I think I have a fair idea. Thanks for that, very interesting!

In addition, they also showed an interesting Facebook plugin where users can leave messages for a femto user which are delivered by SMS when the user’s mobile finds the femto cell at home or at the office and performs a location update procedure. Great integration of social networking. The scenario can be expanded to things like getting a message when the children arrive at home after school or automated reminders to water the plants, something that would help me a great deal, as my plants never survive very long.

We continued the conversation in the evening at Casa Batlo at their dinner party and it was great to meet more people working on the technology and share their enthusiasm for their product and wireless in general. Thanks very much for that! During the evening, I was asked when in my opinion femtos will be launched for the mass market. Obviously, the first standalone femtos are very close to market readiness, the Cisco femtos at the booth are a clear indication for that. For a real mass audience, I think it will take a bit more as I see an integrated Femto/Wifi/DSL/Home Gateway box with applications such as IPTV and streaming server as an ideal platform to attract interest from consumers beyond voice coverage enhancements.

So, what do you think?

8 thoughts on “MWC: Femtos at the Fira”

  1. Hi, Martin.

    First of all, congratulations: you have a really nice blog 😀 I’ve been following it since november, and I find it really worth reading.

    About the femto-cell, i happen to work with them, in a test lab. My experience tells me that you can not take the voice calls for granted, because sometimes there are huge problems when other devices are using de DSL line. Try, for instance, to make a voice call while your PC is downloading a big file.

    Regarding the mass deployment… it seems something far, far away, at least in markets like the spanish, but the femto-cells have a good chance in USA. Then, maybe the prices can go down and burst the other markets. But only time will tell us…

  2. Hi Martin,

    Thanks for the post.

    In my opinion, let’s say a person is at home, having fixed broadband and cable TV or some kind of triple play service.

    Introducing a femto, should bring some additional benefits to him, beyond just home tariff, cheaper calls and one common bill.

    – Interactive applications such as, online betting, voting via the phone

    (say you sit in front of the plasma tv and you want to bet for your favourite team… you won’t go to you pc or turn on your laptop)

    – Media Content adapted for the terminal to be available via femto from the mobile operator(content provider)

    -And of course, location based services are of interest

    So in my opinion, an integrated device (3g/wi-fi/dsl router) with a bundle of services makes good business case, targeting the right audience.

  3. To: Carlos

    Hi Carlos,

    Given the DSL provider has guaranteed QoS, the femtocell always prioritizes the voice traffic, there is no problem in delivering the voice.

    There is a company: Epitiro, that performed a benchmarking of the ISPs for compliance for deploying femtocells in Europe, most of the operators were good enough for delivering VoIP in terms of delay, jitter and etc..

  4. martin

    can you please post a link to that youtube video on the femto on home network. i have heard about it..



  5. I know, I know. You can prioritize the voice with QoS. But you must avoid people (hackers?) from marking other trafic as voice. Sure, it is not so difficult, but providing a good QoS in the DSL lines when you don’t see yet the profit is not straitforward.

  6. Hi Carlos,

    yes, one can never take anything in wireless for granted. I think qos will be dealt with in a much better way once there is a combined femto/wifi/dsl home hub that can prioritize femto traffic in the uplink.

    Kind regards,

  7. Hi Bogdan,

    Thanks for the comment. I completely agree with you it’s the combination of all functionalities in a single device plus the services on top that will make it an attractive bundle.

    Kind regards,

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