Femtocells key to LTE deployment, claims Telenor

This summer will see field trials of LTE take place in the Norwegian capital, Oslo, using equipment supplied by Huawei Technologies. The tests will involve the radio access and Evolved Packet Core (EPC) aspects of the technology, but Telenor has stressed it has also issued a separate RFQ for LTE infrastructure to cover all of the company's operations in the Nordic region.

However, according to a report in Unstrung, Telenor believes the use of femtocells will play a much more important role than had been expected.

“LTE can be used for solving problems with really red hot spots in cities, where 20% of base stations are in complete overload, while other base stations use only 15% to 20% capacity,” said Hans Erik Karsten, VP of network technologies at Telenor's research and innovation unit.

But beyond hotspot coverage, Karsten noted that opinions vary about how many LTE base stations will be needed to provide continuous coverage in urban areas.

“This forces us to think about femtocells. Femtocells will play an important role in the future, much more than we anticipated.”

The deal is Huawei's second relating to LTE services in Norway this year. The vendor closed a deal with TeliaSonera in January to provide a commercial LTE network, also in Oslo, expected to launch in 2010.

Meanwhile, rival Alcatel-Lucent has predicted that 2010 will be the year femtocells make their market breakthrough.

Yannick Dupuch, director of femto product lines at Alcatel-Lucent, expects a significant expansion in the femtocell market next year with sales of between 5 and 10 million units.

Dupuch said the company was already shipping 3G femtocells to a number of mobile operators, including Chunghwa Telecom, and was looking to establish partnerships with a number of Taiwan-based manufacturers to develop femtocell equipment on a long-term basis, given that the production of this technology required a higher level of software expertise.

In another indication of the maturity of the technology, ip.access’s picocells were deployed to provide additional network coverage for last weekend's Monaco F1 Grand Prix. Monaco Telecom recently deployed ip.access's nanoBTS systems to boost network services to VIPs, businesses and hotels in the principality.
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