Growing number of operators are committing to LTE small cell deployments which are expected to form a key market trend in 2012, said a recent Informa Telecoms & Media femtocell market status report.
There are currently 37 commercial deployments with regional US operator, Mosaic Telecom, being the latest to deploy femtocells. Telecom Italia announced its plans to launch before the end of the year and SK Telecom revealed it is set to launch the world’s first LTE femtocell service. Furthermore, Telefonica O2 has disclosed pre-launch details of its ‘Boostbox’ femtocell service in the UK for both consumers and enterprises. Separately, a number of deployed operators have passed 100,000 units, demonstrating the scalability and mass-market appeal of the technology.
Over the past quarter, Sprint, the first operator to deploy femtocells, announced it has rolled out 500,000 units and expects to exceed 1 million by 2013. With AT&T constituting the world’s largest femtocell deployment, it is clear that the US continues to be the most mature small cell market. However, several European and Asian operators including Vodafone UK, Japan’s Softbank and France’s SFR, announced they reached scale by surpassing 100,000 deployed units. Vodafone, which recently launched a marketing campaign around its UK femtocell offering, now offers femtocells in 12 countries and plans to deploy across the whole group.
Vodafone UK recently announced it is to offer public access rural femtocells that will be placed on BT telephone poles in order to bring coverage to “not spots” and areas where traditional base stations have not been economical. The report also highlights growing operator commitment to LTE femtocells with Verizon and Sprint announcing support in the past quarter and SK Telecom promising a commercial deployment before the end of the year. A previous survey conducted by Informa Telecoms & Media showed that 60% of operators believe small cells will be more important than macrocells in LTE networks.
CDMA operators continue to aggressively deploy femtocells with both Sprint and Verizon launching enterprise services which allow several femtocells to be linked together to cover large buildings. To assist CDMA operators, the Femto Forum and 3GPP2 recently published an operator guide detailing best practice for deployments.
There are now 37 femtocell deployments spanning 23 countries and 15 further operator commitments. In June 2011, Informa Telecoms Media estimated that there were in excess of 2.3 million femtocells active both privately in homes and offices, as well as publically in metropolitan and rural environments. As such, there are more 3G femtocells than conventional 3G base stations globally and Informa forecasts growth to continue with 48 million access points in use globally by 2014. Eight of the top 10 mobile operator groups (by revenue) offer femtocell services – this includes AT&T Group, France Telecom Group, NTT DOCOMO Group, Sprint, Telefonica Group, Deutsche Telecom Group, Verizon Wireless and Vodafone Group.