A new 3G femtocell reference design is claiming to provide a coverage range of 40km, and support connections with the user travelling at speeds of up to 120km per hour.
However, the designers, Roke Manor Research, have only enabled the femtocell to support up to 12 simultaneous users, limiting its application to sparsely-populated rural areas where conventional base stations would be uneconomic.
"Previously, the best range femtocell technology could deliver was two kilometres," said Prasid Shah, business sector manager at Roke. "Useful for wireless services on a campus, but uneconomic for network operators that would have to deploy large numbers in order to fill signal black holes in the countryside."
Shah maintains that the reference design, which is based upon technology from picoChip, means that a reliable 3G mobile service in some of the most remote areas in the world is now a cost-effective reality for network operators.
"Alternatively, the 'plug and play' nature of a femtocell allows carriers to quickly deploy a robust network, even if there is little infrastructure in place," said Shah. "This can be used by emergency services or aid workers to offer complete voice and data services even after an earthquake or natural disaster has destroyed conventional cellular facilities."
While this latest femtocell design would seem to take the concept away from its very roots, it could indicate that femto technology is already evolving to support marginal business opportunities by providing 3G coverage, including mobile broadband, to underserved communities.
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