NEC Corporation (a leading Japanese IT company offering range of communication solutions) today announced the launch of 3G Femtocell solution in India. Femtocells are low-powered tiny mobile base stations assigned for usage in home and small offices. Femtocells will enable mobile operators to offer high-quality, high speed 3G Mobile services to the households by tapping on the existing broadband wired line connection. Think of Femtocell as a wi-fi router, but femtocell has the advantage of communicating with mobile phones in its native spectrum. Wi-Fi operate on a different frequency and spectrum. Once installed Femtocells will provide improved signal reception.
NEC is testing this service with a unnamed private Indian mobile operator. NEC will eventually roll out this offering to multiple mobile operators. You may ask, Why would a mobile operator adopt this? Well, rolling out 3G infrastructure involves significant capital expenditure and operational expenditure. In a time when mobile operators have shelled out huge money to secure the licence, they are cash-strapped to roll out 3G in a rapid pace. That's where Femtocells come into picture. This would allow existing mobile subscribers who have broadband wired connections at home to experience the 3G quality services right away. So, this solution will off-load significant network congestion into the existing landline connections. When mobile internet is taking off and when operators are struggling to offer sufficient bandwidth this solution definitely eliminates network congestion and saves time and money for operators.
Again, as a smart consumer you may ask, "If they are free-riding on my existing broadband connection, shouldn't I be paying less? After all, I am helping to reduce their load". The answer to the above question is not clear yet. But when we look at the similar solutions offered in other countries, we can very well conclude that there would be discounted tariffs in play. The benefits for consumers is also fairly large. You get to experience high-quality signal reception (famous 5-bar quality), great mobile bandwidth and discounted or special tariff plans.
NEC is offering two Femtocell access point (FAP) solutions. A Stand-alone FAP and Integrated FAP which has in-build ADSL model so it can double-up as wi-fi router too..
As this solution is in early stages, there are lot of questions left unfulfilled such as how well can femtocells work alongside Wi-fi routers? How much discount as a consumer would I get to enjoy for choosing femtocell? How much would a femtocell base station cost? and many more...
"India's mobile operators already face a hyper-competitive market and are under pressure to reduce the CAPEX and OPEX for their new 3G networks. In addition to securing immense cost saving, a 3G network that incorporates an NEC Femtocell solution instead of a traditional network build out will see a virtuous circle of sustainable customer acquisition and retention as NEC Femtocell provides the 3G service mobile phone customers expect," said Koji Oda, Managing Director of NEC India.
Other variants: Macrocells which are normal base stations that we get to see on roof-tops, Microcell with a range of 2 kilometers, picocells with a range of 200 meters or less. Femtocells has the range of 10 meters.
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