Femtocell is quickly emerging as a fundamental technology enabler in the deployment of next-generation (3G/4G) wireless network infrastructure. A femtocell is a small cellular base station, typically designed for use in a residential or small business environment. This access point communicates to the wireless service providers’ network through a broadband connection. 

Using femtocell, a wireless operator can improve both coverage and capacity especially in an indoor area where access would otherwise be limited or unavailable, in a highly cost effective way. This will reduce the carriers’ operating costs as well as capital expenditure. 

The U.S. is likely to undergo a massive wave of 3G femtocell from the end of 2009. Sprint Nextel Corp. (S) is claiming that it will be the first telecom operators to introduce 3G femtocell in the U.S., beating AT&T (T) and Verizon Wireless (VZ). Although Sprint Nextel is providing 2G CDMA femtocell since 2007 using Samsung Electronics’ chipset, the company will use Airvana Inc (AIRV) chipset for 3G femtocell. Airvana is a partner of Alcatel-Lucent (ALU) for developing 3G CDMA femtocell and its chipset module is integrated into Motorola Inc’s (MOT) femtocell digital picture frame. 

Last January, Verizon had launched its first femtocell using Samsung chipset, but that does not support 3G EV-Do networks for faster download in the home. Currently, AT&T is conducting several advanced trial runs for 3G femtocell in collaboration with Cisco System Inc. (CSCO). The company is also aiming a late 2009 launch of 3G femtocell. 

Meanwhile, Qualcomm Inc (QCOM), the largest manufacturer of 3G mobile chipset based on CDMA technology, is developing its own femtocell chipset even as it licenses out patents for others to develop modules for home base stations. Yesterday, the company announced that it has granted Global Wireless Technologies LLC a worldwide patent license to develop and market femtocells based on Qualcomm’s own CDMA platform. This will include both 3G multi-mode femtocell as well as 4G OFDMA (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing) standard. Qualcomm is also developing an innovative chipset that will integrate femtocell base station with the baseband. The product will be smaller and cheaper than the existing 3G femtocells.
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