The merits of femtocell technology for FMC

* Corporate VP and General Manager for Motorola's Broadband Solutions Group talks about trends in fixed-mobile convergence

We recently had a chance to talk with Alan Lefkof, Corporate VP and General Manager for Motorola's Broadband Solutions Group about trends in fixed-mobile convergence and the relative merits of femtocell technology for FMC. Lefkof brings a unique perspective because Motorola has long been supplying a broad portfolio of wireless and wireline broadband network products for carriers, in-home and enterprise networks.

When it comes to broader acceptance of femtocell technology, Lefkof believes that 2008 will be a year for trials and 2009 will be the year when femtocells begin to show commercial success. According to Lefkof, Europe is leading the way with femtocell support, noting that Motorola has three major trials underway with three separate carriers. In Asia, companies in Singapore and Taiwan also are moving forward with femtocell-based FMC. In the U. S., Sprint is trialing femtocells and Lefkof expects trials by the largest mobile carriers in the U.S. to start sometime in the second half of 2008.As we’ve noted before, femtocells bring an advantage to FMC because users don’t need a dual-mode (cellular/mobile + Wi-Fi) phone because femtocells wirelessly connect to the same mobile handset that is used by the carrier’s cellular/mobile network. Many consumers can’t justify a costly smartphone (like a BlackBerry) that typically has dual mode capabilities, but many enterprises find smartphones and PDAs invaluable. So we asked Lefkof what else might be different about market drivers in enterprise vs. consumer environments.He points out that in addition to the different price sensitivity for handsets, most enterprise offices already have good cellular coverage, mitigating the need for a femtocell to enhance mobile radio signals. He also said that handoffs between the enterprise campus and public mobile networks are a bit more complicated by security and other technology issues. But, he noted that ongoing trials with femtocells in the enterprise will help carriers and infrastructure suppliers better understand these special enterprise-related challenges.Another important lesson trials are bringing: the level of cooperation needed by companies (or intra-company divisions) that supply the carrier’s mobile infrastructure and those that supply the enterprise or consumer premise networking equipment. For example, at Motorola the “connected home” team and the carrier infrastructure business units are working closely together to solve the interworking complexities across the home, enterprise, and carrier networks.

Our thanks to Mr. Lefkof for sharing his perspectives.

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