Femtocells to fall below US$100 next year, claim insiders

Despite the lack of operator enthusiasm for commercial femtocell deployments, industry chatter in Taiwan claims that the price of the consumer devices will fall below US$100 per unit in the second half of 2010 compared to US$250 currently.

While consumer indifference dogs the uptake of femtocells, operators have been struggling to justify the business model based upon today's high-priced units. However, manufacturers in Taiwan, including Gemtek, Asusteck, Foxconn and Zyxel--which have each ventured into femtocell territory--are apparently much keener to push the technology now production costs have plummeted.

Also of note is the information that Huawei, which has won contracts to build cellular networks for Vodafone in countries like Ghana and the Czech Republic, has confirmed that it will start femtocell and 800MHz LTE research with the UK-based operator.

Vodafone, and more recently SFR, have been the first large European operators to commercially offer consumer femtocell products. However, the cost to the customer of around €200 is seen as a significant barrier to uptake.

While a halving of this price would ease this barrier, NEC, which is the end-to-end integrator for the SFR femtocell project, said that the technology must provide more than simply improving 3G voice coverage. "We will see femtocells changing the role of mobile phones in our lives further," said Richard Hanscott, VP network solutions, NEC Europe. "We're looking at new applications such as automatic synchronisation with the home PC network. This will enable photos taken on your handset to be automatically uploaded or music/video you've downloaded on your home PC to be sent to your handset when returning home. The possibilities that the femtocell network can bring are endless."

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