Femtocells remain too expensive, claims Orange VP

Despite the hype and packed conference rooms covering femtocells at last week's MWC, Orange has stated that it is not actively considering femtocell deployments because the mini base stations remain too costly. The company, according to a report in LightReading, prefers to use its existing Wi-Fi residential gateways, branded Livebox, to offload data traffic.

Vivek Badrinath, Orange's executive VP for networks, carriers, platforms and infrastructure, said, "The price points of femtocell technology still make it a bit beyond consumer pricing. The ability to use Wi-Fi is much more industrial grade."

However, the company has admitted that it would continue to test femtocells, using equipment from NEC and Huawei, for use with enterprise customers.

Meanwhile, Deutsche Telekom's new CTO, Olivier Baujard, also confirmed it had no mass market plan for femtocells, although it was using the technology to provide specific indoor coverage challenges in its own shops or for certain customers.

"We have bet very early on the Wi-Fi connectivity," said Baujard. "We use a lot of Wi-Fi, especially in Germany, to offload data traffic as early as we can... We don't see a mass use case for femtocell deployment."

This cautious approach by two of Europe's leading operators must worry and confuse femtocell developers and the Femto Forum. With Vodafone now actively promoting--and reportedly gaining some success--with its ‘Sure Signal' femtocell product (albeit after a disastrous launch), for Orange and T-Mobile to both state a preference for Wi-Fi could see the operator community split along technology lines for in-building coverage.

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