In telecommunications, a femtocell—originally known as an Access Point Base Station—is a small cellular base station, typically designed for use in residential or small business environments. It connects to the service provider’s network via broadband (such as DSL or cable); current designs typically support 2 to 5 mobile phones in a residential setting. A femtocell allows service providers to extend service coverage indoors, especially where access would otherwise be limited or unavailable. The femtocell incorporates the functionality of a typical base station but extends it to allow a simpler, self contained deployment; for example, a UMTS femtocell containing a Node B, RNC and GSN with Ethernet for backhaul. Although much attention is focussed on UMTS, the concept is applicable to all standards, including GSM, CDMA2000, TD-SCDMA and WiMAX solutions.
For a mobile operator, the attractions of a femtocell are improvements to both coverage and capacity, especially indoors. There may also be opportunity for new services and reduced cost. The cellular operator also benefits from the improved capacity and coverage but also can reduce both capital expenditure and operating expense.
A number of ‘must have’ attributes will enable telecoms operators to implement femtocell technology, and thereby boost ARPU and market share.
Dropped calls, patchy reception or the dreaded no service zone – everyone has experienced one if not all of these inconveniences while talking on their mobile phone. It’s a common, sometimes daily, occurrence for many users, yet more and more people have opted to completely drop their landline and survive with only their mobile phone.
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According to a recent European Commission survey of 27,000 homes across the European Union, 24% currently use mobile phones-only at home – a number that’s expected to grow. And we’re already beginning to see how this impacts operator offerings, as landlines are decoupled from bundled services.
Consumers, especially younger consumers, are in part responsible for driving this trend. This group has certainly increased mobile phone usage within the home, and current indoor coverage is not always satisfactory for some wireless networks. This is where femtocell technology comes in. By enhancing the wireless signal, femtocells make dropped calls, patchy reception or “no service” a thing of the past.
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