Price crucial to femtocell success

Chunghwa Telecom’s mobile chief warns that lower equipment prices are essential to kick-start rollouts of femtocells.
Shih Mu-Piao told delegates at Femtocell Asia 2011 that equipment prices between $50 (€35) and $100 are necessary to boost take-up of the technology, following two years of trials of the technology by the carrier.
Despite his assertion, Chungwha has stalled on launching commercial femto services due to regulatory and technical issues. Government regulations in Taiwan have classified femtocells as base stations, meaning operators must assume responsibility for installation, and then report all locations to the domestic regulator.
However, new regulations will boost deployments in the country, Shih said. “3G operators have become more aggressive in evaluating and planning femto deployment, and ICT manufacturers in the country can help keep femtocell costs low.”
Chunghwa’s plan for femto deployment includes first enhancing coverage in areas with poor network reception. The next phase of deployment will center on the offload to its 3.5G network.
“Femto could fill the same role Wi-Fi does in offloading network traffic. We already have Wi-Fi hotspots in 7-11 stores and McDonald’s outlets; femto could bring new life to Wi-Fi,” Shih said.
The operator’s business model for femto concerns bundled packages with mobile or DSL subscriptions. “Negotiations between mobile operators and backhaul operators will need to take place. The two are brothers in Chunghwa’s case, but may not be so for others.”
Other aspects that Chunghwa is looking into before going commercial are OSS and billing integration, call center and reseller provisioning, inventory management and the repair-return process.
“Dense femto deployment requires interference mitigation techniques such as smart algorithms to optimize the cell’s performance,” Shih notes. “Operators have to decide where femtos should be located and restrain illegal usage.”
A possible deployment scenario in Taiwan would involve various combinations of femto and DSL operators, he added.