Femtocells: T-Mobile and Orange remain sceptical

Regardless of the heady atmosphere at last week's Femtocell conference, T-Mobile and Orange have responded by say they won't be rushed into a deployment announcement by this newfound ‘enthusiasm'. The announcement by Vodafone that it would launch a commercial service starting this week was also slapped down by T-Mobile International saying that it wasn't worried about being first to market.

"We won't be pushed by that announcement," said Klaus-Jürgen Krath, T-Mobile's VP of radio networks engineering. "Let's see how they do in the market," he told Unstrung.

This reluctance by T-Mobile to enter the femtocell market is rather at odds with the company's investment in the femtocell vendor Ubiquisys and femto chip startup Percello, and the numerous trials and pilot deployments the operator has made with the technology. Of note has been T-Mobile recent extension of femtocell coverage into its retail outlets using Huawei and Ubiquisys access points to provide better 3G coverage for handset demo purposes.

However, T-Mobile remains cautious about the technical benefits for femtocell deployment, in particular the potential increase in backhaul traffic that can result from home usage, interference with the macro network and the quality of the broadband link. But Krath does admit that it may make sense to give the femtocells away for free to heavy data users, because the operational cost savings might make that scenario worthwhile.

Orange is still at the stage of remaining unconvinced the femtocell business model is viable. According to a company exec, it remains unclear what the customer should pay for a femtocell and how much Orange could charge for usage. "It will cost between €300 to €500 to install using a qualified installer, and add this to the cost of femto and the business case does not fly," he said. "If the consumer installs the device then there is the high possibility of a complaint if they happen to not see improved 3G coverage having incorrectly positioned the unit."

Orange maintain that its UMA service (a Wi-Fi/GSM combination) remains a very cost efficient and strategic option for the company until femtocells mature.

For more on the story:
Unstrung and GLG

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