4G World Preview: Solving the femtocell dilemma

Femtocells are starting to gain a lot of traction with operators because of their ability to enhance the performance of existing 3G networks and the promise they hold for expanding the coverage of 4G networks. But like lots of new wireless innovations, the dilemma surrounding femtocells isn't about the technology. It's about the business case.

Co-located at 4G World is the Femtocell and Picocell Summit, where panelists will discuss the technology, the deployment and the business case for femtocells and picocells. The panels will take place on Tuesday, Sept. 15. Look for an announcement regarding a femtocell customer win from Continuous Computing.

Accenture's Shahid Ahmed, partner for the firm's network technology service line, said Accenture is bullish on femtocells, devices that create a small cone of wireless coverage and generally backhaul through a user's wired Internet connection. He believes they offer a big cost savings to carriers, and help consumers get better coverage and quality of service. Nevertheless, he said that there are some interoperability issues and roaming situations that need to be addressed before femtocells will enjoy widespread success. "The operational aspects and interoperability issues need to be sorted out," said Ahmed, a speaker at 4G World. "Until that happens femtocells will be a pipe dream."

Specifically, Ahmed said wireless players need to address what happens if a customer from one carrier roams into someone else's femtocell coverage area: Will they be allowed to roam on the femtocell? And what happens if a customer moves the femtocell to another country and tries to use it there?

Femto vendor Samsung, however, believes that these issues will be resolved quickly. A pioneer in the femtocell space, Samsung has commercially launched femtocells with both Sprint Nextel and Verizon Wireless. "We saw value in the solution for 2G and 3G networks, but they become even more important in the 4G world," said Tom Jasny, vice president of convergence solutions and wireless/broadband network systems at Samsung. "With OFDM networks, they are a valuable tool in network design."

Jasny said he's confident the industry will resolve any business model issues. "What we are seeing is limited volumes, high cost and price structures," he said. "That will be resolved."

4G World Preview:
Reality check - apps and back office are a priority
LTE applications, business models still up for debate
Sword of consolidation hangs over mobile WiMAX vendors
Backhaul to remain a challenge
Solving the femtocell dilemma