Femtos needed to boost data throughput, claim Qualcomm execs

Operators looking to take advantage of the data speeds offered by LTE will need to look to deploy denser networks, including the use of femto and picocells. This viewpoint, put forward by the former and current CEOs of Qualcomm, Irwin and Paul Jacobs, could mean operators using a lot more base station hardware than in today's networks, given that the industry should not expect more spectrum to become available to ease capacity issues.

"This means thinking about much denser radio networks" said Paul Jacobs, speaking at the US CTIA conference. "With more of a femto or picocell architecture in place, operators could expect an eight- to ten-times improvement in network performance. However, managing interference with so many more radios in place will be one issue, and managing handover between many small base stations will be another."

The likelihood of a significant increase in data traffic promoted Paul Jacobs to highlight the backhaul issue that operators will also need to address. "At the moment in some places there are higher rates over the air than there is in the backhaul, and that's not good."

While accepting that this bottleneck will force mobile operators to differentiate among heavier and lighter users of data, he cautioned about calls for net neutrality regulations. "I don't necessarily believe that you ought to go down and say, 'This service is OK and that service isn't.' Maybe that's too intrusive. But certainly you can go in and shape traffic."

One industry analyst listening to the panel, Jack Gold, commented: "Technology alone won't get us out of the looming problem we've got. Femtocells are one possible solution, but if everyone uses femtocells that can carry data, that will put a lot more traffic on DSL and cable modem networks."

Qualcomm is a leading supplier of femtocell chipsets and has made investments in femtocell manufacturers.

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