Telefónica's O2 UK, Orange UK and Bouygues Telecom unveiled femtocell rollout plans, providing a boost to the technology's prospects for widescale uptake.
This decision by the three operators means that all operators in the UK and France now offer femtocell services, with O2 UK announcing that it has deployed thousands of devices across the UK. This includes what it claims is the densest femtocell deployment anywhere in the world (1,500 femtocells in one apartment complex in London). The apartment building is believed to be in the Olympic Village for the London Olympics, which start next month, according to a Total Telecom report.
Alcatel-Lucent's 9363 Urban Metro Cell at the Gare du Nord train station in Paris.
Commenting on the announcements, which were made at the recent Small Cell World Summit in London, Simon Saunders, chairman of the Small Cell Forum, said that femtos have now been installed by 43 operators globally and France and the UK have become the first markets where all operators have announced services.
"The technology is proving to be a vital tool for improving mobile coverage and increasingly importantly capacity too," Saunders told Total Telecom. "It's really hard to find an operator that doesn't have small cells in their roadmap."
Separately, research firm Informa Telecoms & Media released an update to its latest quarterly small cell market status report highlighting growing operator interest in public access small cells as well as progress in the femtocell market.
Of note, the study claims small cells will outnumber all macro cells globally during the fourth quarter of 2012 and that residential femtocells alone will outnumber all macro cells shortly afterwards in the first quarter of 2013. Informa also raised its forecast for the number of small cells rolled out globally to 91.9 million by 2016, up from its earlier prediction of 62.4 million.
"We are starting to see vendor-led public access small cell R&D turning into concrete operator deployment commitments," Dimitris Mavrakis, principal analyst at Informa, said in a statement. "With major operator groups such as Telefónica and Telenor preparing widespread femtocell launches in the near future we can expect deployment numbers to quickly rise--especially if they are as committed as Vodafone."
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