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Femtocell Services: North America and the State of the Industry

| Mar 25, 2011 | Mobile Access Infrastructure
| Analyst: Peter Jarich, Service Director, Service Provider Infrastructure

Click here to download report (100 KB PDF)

Operators in the U.S. launched some of the market’s first mainstream, commercial, consumer femtocell services. Sprint took its initial Airave offer national in July 2008. Verizon and AT&T went on to follow suit, rolling out femtocells nationally as an option for their customers. In total per our consumer services company profiles, this operator base represents network coverage reaching 300+ POPS and a total customer base of nearly 240 million people (albeit that includes prepaid subscribers as well). With Sprint recently claiming to have 250,000 femtocells deployed, it is clear that the total number of in-home base stations outnumbers macrocell base stations by a good margin.

Over time, the consumer femtocell service offers from these operators have all evolved. While initial launches were generally local or regional, for example, national availability is now the norm. Likewise, CDMA femtocells began as 2G (voice-only) solutions, but now include EV-DO rev. A capabilities. Sprint originally built its femtocell offer with products from Samsung, though moved to Airvana-sourced kit for 3G and while a monthly premium for having a femtocell on their account was originally charged, the carrier no longer requires this.

A few years into their launches, then, it’s worth taking a look at how these services are being positioned, sold and rolled out.

The short answer is simple. Femtocells in North America are about customer care and customer satisfaction. Even where an operator proactively reaches out to its customer base, the goal is customer retention. The goal is not data offload as some femtocell vendors (visionaries) have promoted. The goal is not added revenues. Ultimately, you can credit this focus with driving femtocell vendors to look at new markets such as the enterprise or outdoor small cells. Unfortunately, it won’t help to drive femtocell sales volumes or the development of a femtocell application ecosystem, and it could well be leaving money on the table that operators could tap if femtocells were treated as strategic vs. tactical.


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