ClearSky Technologies, a regional wireless data provider, is working with NEC to offer Femtocell as a Service (FaaS) to regional wireless carriers that use GSM and UMTS.
FaaS, where the femtocells are hosted on a third-party infrastructure, is an alternative, economical approach to launching services for many smaller carriers. ClearSky will use NEC’s femtocell gateway and corresponding plug-and-play residential, enterprise and outdoor femtocell access points.
“We believe femtocells can be deployed by rural carriers to cost effectively address a number of operational challenges including reducing roaming costs by filling coverage gaps in their own markets, offloading data traffic from their core networks and eliminating poor coverage within their subscribers’ residences,” said Tony Tagliareni, ClearSky chief sales & marketing officer.
ClearSky’s announcement was the second major FaaS event this year. Regional carrier Cellcom, along with Airvana and Taqua, began offering FaaS to CDMA regional carriers in North American in May, using a FemtoCloud platform. Cellcom’s FemtoCloud solution consists of Airvana’s Femtocell Service Manager and Small Cell Analytics service and Taqua’s fully integrated small cell core offering.
“At Cellcom, we are actively exploring new deployment models that enable regional and rural wireless operators to deliver competitive offerings to their customers,” said Rob Riordan, executive vice president and director of corporate development at Cellcom and Nsight. “We are actively seeking carriers to be part of the first deployment of this service. There is tremendous demand for capacity on cellular networks today. I don’t see how carriers can survive without an economic deployment of small cells.”
Globally, there are now in excess of 2.3 million 3G femtocells compared to 1.6 million 3G macrocells, according to a June market status report released by Informa Telecoms & Media. Commercial femtocell services worldwide now number 31, which represents over 60 percent growth in deployments in the past quarter.
“This market growth is reflected in the fact that eight of the top 10 mobile operator groups (by revenue) now offer femtocell services, which includes AT&T Group, France Telecom Group, NTT DOCOMO Group, Sprint, Telefonica Group, Deutsche Telecom Group, Verizon Wireless and Vodafone Group. Furthermore, in the vast majority of these markets, the devices now outnumber all generations of cell sites,” wrote Dimitris Mavrakis, Informa analyst, on his web blog.
Informa forecasts this growth to continue with 48 million access points in use globally by 2014. The firm noted that femtocell growth shifted in the last quarter from in enterprise usage to public access for data offload.
The technology is also expected to grow in 4G networks with 60 percent of operators believing that small cells will be more important than macrocells for an effective LTE deployment strategy, according to a recent Informa survey.