Femtocells: NSN and China Mobile demo TD-LTE femto, but questions remain

While claiming the demonstration was a world first, the public display by Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN) and China Mobile of a TD-LTE femtocell might indicate that the giant Chinese operator is keen to implement LTE in place of the government-imposed 3G standard, TD-SCDMA.

But the intent behind the femtocell demonstration was to prove the indoor penetration of TD-LTE given, according to China Mobile, that the majority of mobile broadband capacity will be consumed inside homes and offices. "TD-LTE femtocells can fully leverage the advantages of TDD frequencies, provide a fast and flexible indoor coverage solution and effectively manage network capacity and cost," said Huang Xiaoqing, general manager of the China Mobile Research Institute.

This early demonstration of a TD-LTE femtocell has given rise to speculation that China Mobile will launch the device as soon as it can go commercially live with LTE to provide hot spot coverage and much improved indoor penetration.

NSN stated that the experimental TD-LTE femtocell was able to deliver speeds higher than were possible using xDSL technology, and indicated, according to Stephan Scholz, CTO at NSN, the company's "innovative research leadership in LTE."

However, this effort to prove the capabilities of TD-LTE has been seen by business commentators as an attempt to encourage wider industry support for the TDD version of LTE. It would appear increasingly likely that China Mobile will be the only TD-LTE operator and will face the considerable challenge of creating a viable eco-system for device vendors to develop handsets based upon this standard.

The long-delayed deployment of China's homegrown TD-SCDMA 3G technology has raised doubts over its future success, not helped by the disappointing subscriber numbers recently announced by China Mobile. The company said that, at the end of August, its 3G subscriber base stood at 1.33 million, an increase of 239,000 on the previous month's tally.

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