The Femtocell. It's a strange name for a device, almost sci-fi like, but these units are becoming more and more popular around the globe as demand for mobile connectivity grows at a far faster rate than the one at which new towers are being erected. The femtocell
is a fantastic solution to a problem that isn't going away any time soon, and if you aren't sure about what they are, here's a brief description: Sprint's Airave
and AT&T's 3G Microcell
are both femtocell devices. You plug these into your home broadband connection, and they create a miniature cell tower or sorts within your home. Now you have a small radius of 5-bar service where you previously had much less (or none at all).
The idea is that if everyone had a femtocell, reception would be better everywhere. Companies have yet to open all of them up for use by everyone (as FON has done overseas with Wi-Fi), but that's still an idea worth pursuing. According to a new ABI Research report, the one millionth femtocell is expected to ship this year, which is definitely a monumental milestone. That forecast reflects the fact that femtocell rollouts by operators have more than doubled in the last year, and the one for 2015 has over 54 million femtocells being shipped.
According to mobile networks practice director Aditya Kaul: "The critical factor for femtocell adoption will be the operators in North America and, to an even greater extent, in China. Chinese operators are still trying to form a view about the femtocell value proposition. In North America, the question is which operator will be most aggressive with femtocell rollouts. AT&T is already proactive, but it appears that Sprint
are gearing up for a second wave of femtocell deployments."
Price, as always, is a factor as well. Since these units have been out on the market a while, the premium associated with something new and novel is fading, and they're becoming cheaper to acquire. Also, businesses are starting to realize just how helpful these can be when they need boosted service within the office.
We still think femtocells have a long way to go before they are really maximizing their potential. We'd love a signal sharing network that would allow femtocells to act as public reception hotspots, particularly in the U.S. If everyone purchased a femtocell, think about how great the overall reception would be. Now that's a dream we can all embrace.