The future of "femtocells"?

OK, I'll ask a predict-the-future question of the gurus on this NG:

What's likely to be the future of "femtocells" (aka residential "network extenders")? -- that is, gadgets which connect to a cellphone provider over the Internet and provide a good cellphone signal within the residence and portions of the yard? (I don't mean rooftop gadgets that pick up signals from a nearby towers and rebroadcast them inside a residence.)

That is, are major cellphone providers likely to continue making these network extender devices and service available, at reasonable cost, for the foreseeable future? Or are there commercial or political factors that might lead to them dropping this kind of connectivity in the future?

Reason for asking: I live in a "faculty ghetto" on a major university campus: 850 fairly upscale residences in a mile-square area, heavily wooded, fairly hilly. Cellphone coverage within much of this area, provided by cell towers in surrounding cities and suburban areas, ranges from poor to lousy. Proposed improvements in coverage using a half dozen low-power distributed antennas hidden inside 30' to 50' high poles about 12" in diameter, located within the area but generally shielded by surrounding trees, are rousing the usual fervid nimby response from a vocal minority.

All the residences in this area have or can get good Comcast Internet service; Google 1 Gig fiber is being installed right now. So, why not bypass this entire distributed antenna controversy, and tell everyone to just buy their own femtocell? (I've had a Verizon model for a year or more myself, and it's been excellent.)

I'm just attempting to check: are these femtocells likely to remain available indefinitely? Or are there good reasons they might go away? Thanks for any insights.

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In message , AES writes

[ Moderator snip ]

I would think that the future is fairly strong.

3G & 4G frequencies are more line of sight than earlier ones, so small no signal zones (no-zones) are likely to get more common.

The technology itself will/can only get cheaper (Moore's law).

Fibre based broadband roll out makes the backhaul cheaper and more reliable.

The economics for filling small no-zones using conventional masts are less and less compelling/viable. The smaller the no-zone the less compelling the argument. $150K+ operating costs to offer cellphone coverage to a 1 sq mile low population density residential area - few visitors or transient traffic; most residents will already have a contract with free minutes that they can't use at home so giving them the capability would drive call cost but not revenue. The payback would be fairly long!

A cellphone operator in the UK is experimenting with "community femtocells". They are installing a bigger version of the home units with public access and "hand in" in our village - two so far - one in the top of the telephone kiosk ( already has power and a phone line) and one on the side of the village hall. Others are apparently planned for utility poles around the village.

Sounds like your "faculty ghetto" would be a typical target.

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Peter R Cook

keithday had written this in response to

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: The supply of residential femtocells are forecast to grow rapidly across the world over the next few years. There are several reasons:

- they provide a really simple fix to poor indoor coverage

- they help reduce congestion on the macro mobile network

- device prices are falling, and femto will increasingly be an embedded function rather than a separate device

- Emerging next gen wireless networks (like LTE) will be deployed with femtocells as an integral part of the design

So your proposed solution makes sense for the long term, not just as an immediate fix.

Keith Day [disclaimer - I do work for a femtocell company]

AES wrote:


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An Australian carrier (Optus) has just released a home product based on 3G femtocell technology:

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You have to register up to 11 3G handsets to access the device and the user gets a decent deal for calls on *one* handset.

I still find the whole concept a little bizarre given the opposition to cell towers and their radiation in some quarters - now people are going to add more RF sources in their homes to the Wi-Fi emitters that they probably already use!

Oh well, it will probably reduce their handset RF power when in use so it may well balance out.

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David Clayton

Thanks for helpful reply. That's what I'd hope to hear.

[But at the same time, all too many products and services these days evolve in whatever direction gives the most commercial revenue or advertising opportunities or monopolistic potential, not what best serves the ultimate consumers.]
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Thanks for the pointer; the video is particularly useful in explaining to nontechnical types how a "femtocell" operates.

In the situation of current interest to me, the opposition is stemming primarily from aesthetic rather than health concerns (though the latter may also come along later on).

The "towers" that are proposed to be installed are actually DAS (distributed antenna system) poles, from which the radiated powers are apparently in the tens rather than hundreds of watts. The poles themselves -- essentially simple black monolithic tubes about 18" diameter and 30 to 50 feet tall -- are a bit brutal in appearance, but all the antenna junk is totally hidden inside them. The top 2 meters of the pole is apparently fiberglass rather than steel, although the entire pole appears completely seamless.

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In message , David Clayton writes

[Moderator snip]

I suspect this often falls into the category of:

"My convenience/need outweighs my concerns. Your (wider society's) convenience/need doesn't outweigh my concerns."

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