The wireless industry, expecting femtocells to usher in another market for products and services and eager to get that ball rolling, now knows where to look for the next femtocell deployment: Japan.
Japanese operator SoftBank Mobile announced it is on track to commercially deploy a 3G femtocell service in January 2009. The deployment will be of particular interest not only because it will be early to market but because the SoftBank product will connect to an IP Multimedia Subsystem core network. SoftBank will introduce the service with Ubiquisys ZoneGate femtocells. NEC will supply the overall femtocell system, which includes the IMS core and Femto Gateways. The femtocells will be targeted to the residential market for use in the home, and will typically connect to the consumer's fixed Internet connection.
Sprint, in the U.S., does get to claim first-mover status in the femtocell service business. The operator introduced the Airave femtocell program in two markets in September 2007 and took the product nationwide this past summer. However, that service is promoted primarily as a voice product; it does not support Sprint's EVDO data speeds.
Vendor NEC, in addition to the SoftBank deal, announced it has made a strategic investment in the U.S. FMC solutions company, Kineto Wireless. Kineto, which helped pioneer UMA-based dual-mode devices and other innovations, is naturally pursuing femtocells as well. Kineto indicated the funding will be applied to femtocell development.
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