Good Days Now, Better Days Ahead for Femtos, Wi-Fi

Carl Weinschenk

As always, there is a lot going on for Wi-Fi and femtocells, two mainstays of the ongoing evolution of the many wireless, mobile and wired networks to a single multi-dimentional platform able to serve virtually any user.


ABI Research this week reported that shipments of cell phones with Wi-Fi will double between January of last year and the end of 2010. The growth curve, this story at IntoMobile on the research says, will continue through 2013. The study provides several reasons why.


Perhaps the most interesting tidbit is this, however: fully 75 percent of people with iPhones regularly use Wi-Fi, while the use of the technology on HTC phones is radically less. A bit of bad editing and/or writing makes it difficult to provide a precise figure. Depending on how the passage is read, either 10 percent of all HTC owners use the onboard Wi-Fi function or 10 percent of the owners of HTC devices that offer Wi-Fi, which is 80 percent of the vendor's line. In either case, the reality is that significantly more iPhone owners use onboard Wi-Fi than HTC owners. It is important for vendors and service providers to figure out if this is due to the quality of the user interface, the nature of the buyers or some other reason.


Wi-Fi on handsets extends service to areas poorly covered by the carrier. Femtocells are another way to do this. Despite the strength of Wi-Fi's foray into the cell phone, this RCR Network News piece makes clear that it will not dominate the scene. The story looks at the increasing number of femtocell services-Sprint Nextel and Verizon offer products and AT&T Mobility is on deck-and suggests that the timing nicely dovetails with the emerging introductions of Long Term Evolution (LTE) 4G services. LTE, of course, is aimed at more than cell phones, but these devices will be one of the main benefactors of the faster data rates.

The chipset vendors are getting into the act as well. This InformationWeek piece says that Qualcomm has added femtocells to its product roadmap. The Femtocell Station Modem will support various flavors of 3G, including High Speed Packet Access (HSPA) and Evolution-Data Optimized (EVDO) Revs. A and B.

Digital television connectivity also is a driver, In-Stat says.
The firm predicts that 21 million sets will be shipped with the feature by 2012. The living room and playroom Wi-Fi connectivity is a growing adjunct to its core strength serving cell phones, laptops and other portable devices. The firm says that more than 100 million portable media players will ship with Wi-Fi in 2011 and 300 million cellular handsets will sport the feature by the next year.


CableFax's Michael Greb grasps the importance of the In-Stat research. Wi-Fi has long been a key option, of course, for mobile device connectivity. The emergence of 802.11n, with its far higher data rate, will further Wi-Fi because it enables the comfortable streaming of video. This enables a phalanx of stationary devices to join phones and other mobile devices as users of Wi-Fi.


The bottom line is that times are good for Wi-Fi and femtocells and that the two tools appear to be on a sustainable upward path. This is great evidence of the overall health and continued success of the wireless and mobile sectors.

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