Qualcomm buys into femtocell developer

The burgeoning femtocell market has been given a significant boost following the decision by Qualcomm Ventures to acquire a shareholding in the U.K.-based developer ip.access.

This move by one of the technology giants in the wireless industry is being seen as validating the concept as well as ramping up the competitive stakes. "Having [Qualcomm's] weight behind us and behind femtocells is good," said Andy Tiller, VP of marketing at ip.access. "It's beginning to look like this market is about scale. We need big friends in that kind of market, and Qualcomm is one of those friends."

Also, for ip.access, the money Qualcomm is bringing is less interesting than the relationships and influence--especially with standards organisations--that it adds. Privately held, the company already lists Cisco, Intel Capital, ADC and Motorola Ventures among its owners.

The company presently uses chipsets from PicoChip in its Oyster 3G femtocell unit and is currently being trialed by several network operators worldwide. ip.access said it would continue to source silicon from PicoChip, and this would not change in the near term. "Certainly, Qualcomm is active in silicon development and in the future the femtocell market will require future iterations of silicon as the scale of the market increases--but it is not conditional in them investing in us," said Stephen Mallison, CEO of ip.access. "PicoChip is a great company with a great product."

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