Operators to offer free femtocells; US$100 price breached

One of the leading developers of femtocell technology, Ubiquisys, has claimed that the indoor base stations will be provided free by some operators as the price point for the units falls below US$100.

"Two years ago we asked operators what would it take for consumer femtocells to reach the mass market? They said clearly, it's the US$100 price point," said Will Franks, founder and CTO of Ubiquisys. Given that this price point now seems achievable, enabling operators to subsidise sales, Franks claims that he "knows quite a number of operators who will give it away for free, and you cannot really argue with free."

Google-backed Ubiquisys stated that its new G3-mini femto would sell for less than US$100 to operators, taking femtocell prices to a new low. It said it had received a first order for 100,000 G3-minis, which are manufactured by SerComm, and which would be its first device based on the Femto Engine and powered by Percello chipsets. Ubiquisys said the SerComm femto was already in operator trials.

This move came as the Femto Forum announced the completion of the first femtocell plugfest. The tests, organised as an ETSI Plugtest interoperability event, was designed to demonstrate the effectiveness of the 3GPP femtocell standards in supporting interop between femtocell access points and network equipment from different vendors.

"This process will ultimately allow operators to multisource the technology as they do with mobile handsets today," said Natasha Tamaskar, chair of the Femto Forum's IOT Initiative. "This plugfest represents a crucial step towards the Femto Forum's vision of a fully open interoperable femtocell ecosystem."

According to a recent Heavy Reading mobile networks insider report, individual operator orders for femtos were not expected to be larger than 10,000 to 20,000 in terms of the number of units ordered until the end of this year. The report also noted that, while some vendors expected the volume of femtos shipped to reach 4 million by the end of 2010, others anticipate the volume to be only 1 million.

For more on this story:
Reuters & LightReading

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