CES: Despite lack of carrier marketing, consumers want femtocells

LAS VEGAS – Despite a lack of a carrier marketing, more than 50% of US consumers are interested in having a femtocell in their home, according to ABI Research. The Femto Forum cited these statistics today at CES as the organization switches gears from encouraging carriers to adopt femtocells to inciting consumers to do the same.

Femto Forum chairman Simon Saunders said that most carriers haven’t yet begun to market femtocells, wireless access points that connect the mobile phone to a mobile network over broadband connection. As a result, the often expensive service hasn’t seen much success, although the US is leading the way with the three largest carriers, Verizon, AT&T and Sprint all offering solutions. There are now commercial deployments underway in the US, Europe and Asia as well. Saunders said that given the explosion of data in recent months and the resulting criticism that carriers have gotten from it, femtocells are an increasingly viable option for both carriers and consumers.

“The operators are facing this point – it is not realistic to say the networks are beautiful, they are not getting congested and everyone has perfect coverage everywhere; we all know that is not the case,” said Rupert Baines, vice president of marketing for picoChip, in a panel discussion. “So the question is, what is the most cost-effective way to solve those problems? Femtocells are effective and targeted way to get that coverage.”

The Femto Forum includes 120 members, 55 of which are operators representing more than 1.4 billion mobile subscribers. Saunders said that he expects the course of 2010 to be very exciting for the technology and believes adoption will become more mainstream by the year’s end.

In other femtocells news, low-cost, voice-over IP provider magicJack confirmed today that it will launch an operator-agnostic femtocell. Hoping to build on the success of its VoIP product, which the company said has sold over five million units, the femtocells will work with mobile phones from potentially any carrier, GSM or CDMA. According to the press release, a magicJack femtocell owner will also be able to use any other magicJack femtocell after a one-time, automatic registration.

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