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Report: Femtocell profile up again but growth still slow

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The profile of femtocells is up again, but growth is still coming along slowly, according to a new report from Infonetics Research.

The firm said worldwide revenue from 2G and 3G femtocells grew 121.5 percent with the number of units sold for revenue growing by more than 200 percent in 2010 compared with 2009. The number of femtocells sold doubled between the fourth quarter 2009 and fourth quarter 2010.

"Traction is coming to the femtocell market, but slowly: with over 1.2 million units shipped in 2010 for revenue (not including non-revenue shipments for trials and soft launches), the market is now underway, but through 2011 there will still be too few operators active in this space to drive rapid acceleration. We expect this to come in 2012, when femtocell shipments should exceed 5 million worldwide, driven by a diversification from the consumer and enterprise segments to rural and public spaces," predicts Richard Webb, directing analyst for WiMAX, microwave, and mobile devices at Infonetics Research.

The report indicates that the number of femtocell units sold quarter-over-quarter increased 21 percent and revenue grew just 1 percent in 4Q10 over 3Q10, reflecting the decline in unit prices.

Samsung held the top spot in terms of femtocell revenue market share in the fourth quarter, followed by Alcatel-Lucent and NEC. Infonetics said that average revenue per femtocell unit will continue to fall as the industry focuses on selling these miniature base stations for an average price of $100. That price point is expected to be reached in 2011, although some vendors have reached that price point already, the firm said.

The market has yet to see next-generation femtocells based on WiMAX or LTE, but Infonetics points out that mobile operators are keen on deploying small-cell architectures in conjunction with their macro cell rollouts.

Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) announced last week that it counts around 250,000 femtocells on its network and expects that number to increase to around 1 million during the course of the next few years.

The figure indicates Sprint accounts for a good portion of the femtocells in the United States. According to the Femto Forum, there were 350,000 femtocells nationwide at the end of 2010. AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) and Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) also sell femtocells.

For more:
- see this Cellular-News article

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