Femto Forum announces new study

Signals Research Group has completed a detailed whitepaper on the business case for femtocells as part of its ongoing femtocell business modeling initiative with the Femto Forum, the independent industry and operator association that supports femtocell deployment worldwide.

The study found, across a wide variety of scenarios considering different regions of the world, the business case for femtocells is strong, often doubling the customer lifetime value, and does not depend on any one critical factor or assumption in order to generate a favorable outcome. Further to this, the research demonstrated that femtocells can dramatically reduce the growing financial costs made by heavy mobile broadband data users on the mobile network.

Signals Research Group found that changing the perceived key assumptions associated with femtocells does not threaten the viability of the business case. For example, increasing the wholesale cost of the femtocell by 50% (from $200 to $300) only reduces the basic value proposition for femtocells by a modest 16.3%. The study also found that the business case is not contingent upon a reduction in churn even though it is a likely outcome of a femtocell deployment and has already been proven in other similar FMC product deployments.

At a time when there is a great deal of interest surrounding managing the costs associated with the growing uptake of ‘unlimited’ mobile broadband data packages, the research found there to be considerable savings associated with offloading traffic via the femtocell, in particular for heavy data users.

The study found that the cost savings associated with offloading as low as 1.4 GB of HSPA data or 1.3 GB of EV-DO Rev A data per month via the femtocell from a coverage-constrained macro cellular network would justify an operator offering a subscriber a free femtocell. For a small but rapidly growing segment of heavy wireless data users an operator can easily halve the cost of delivering wireless data at home or in the office by offloading traffic from the macro cellular network onto a femtocell.

These latest findings follow those presented by Signals Research Group at Mobile World Congress where it was announced that even with conservative assumptions, the customer lifetime value of a femtocell user increases by as much as 125%, and even more in certain user scenarios. Additionally it was found that a European operator wanting to provide a reliable 2.5 Mbps in-building service for the most coverage challenged households, could do so for €320 per household if it used a femtocell strategy, whereas providing similar in-home service with the means of the macro cellular network alone would cost €900.

Simon Saunders, Chairman of the Femto Forum, stated: “To date we’ve seen femtocell deployments mostly focus on providing improved indoor coverage. However, the rapid take up in mobile broadband services means we’re going to see this start to change rapidly. If the mobile industry is serious about decisively moving beyond simple voice and text to providing a mobile broadband service to all its subscribers then femtocells must be a key consideration for managing the associated costs. Signals Research Group’s findings illustrate the flexibility of the femtocell business case. The picture that emerges is one of a low risk investment, requiring a modest financial outlay to get started and costs which can be easily paid back based on conservative assumptions about the services offered.”

Operators in large geographic regions, such as North America, may leverage femtocells to provide improved coverage. Conversely, operators in regions such as Western Europe where calling plans are more expensive may place a greater emphasis on free calls. The research indicated there is nothing that precludes any of the strategies from being successful in any of the regions although some will prove to be more popular than others.