Super femtocells almost ready for the enterprise

Residential femtocells suffer from lack of capacity and enterprise grade features essential for deployment within the enterprise, said ABI Research in a new study. Traditional picocells have suffered from high costs of ownership, it added, but the need for an enterprise-grade device that looks and feels like a femtocell still remains.

The result is the ‘super’ femtocell. According to ABI Research senior analyst, Aditya Kaul: “Super femtocells combine the larger capacity of the picocell with the lower cost and ease of installation of the residential femtocell. According to a new ABI Research Brief, the resulting market will grow from almost zero today to slightly more than 500,000 units in 2013.”

A single super femtocell with eight or 16 channels should easily suffice for SMEs with 50 or 100 employees, avoiding complicated handoffs, However, these devices differ from home femtocells in more than just capacity; they often include enterprise-specific features such as IP PBX support, short code dialing, 802.1x security authentication, QoS, redundancy, and service continuity.

Most femtocell vendors are busy developing super femto products, although only one – Huawei – is shipping a 16-channel femto product. Meanwhile trials are under way in several countries, conducted by mobile operators such as Vodafone in Spain, Orange in France and Mobilkom of Austria.

There is a difference of opinion on whether super femtos will be auto-configurable or will have semi-automatic configurability, said Kaul. Some operators as well as marketing teams within operators would still prefer some picocell-style planning and control, while the technical teams would rather avoid that.

“Ultimately market forces will drive super femto feature sets and configurability,” commented Kaul. “Femtocell vendors would be foolish to ignore the enterprise market; although it is small compared to the home market, it is still sizeable in revenue terms and will eventually piggyback on the home femtocell market.”

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