New Femto Forum Research Details Benefits of Femtocells for LTE & WiMAX

March 23, 2010 - Detailed Research Demonstrates That Femtocells Improve the Operator Business Case for LTE & WiMAX Networks While Also Significantly Improving the User Experience and the Range of Services Operators Can Deliver.

The Femto Forum, the independent industry and operator association that supports femtocell deployment worldwide, today announced the completion of a significant body of research into the use of femtocells in LTE & WiMAX networks. Building on the Forum’s previous work on 3G femtocells, which helped create the conditions for the rapid growth in commercial deployments globally, it provides advanced support for operators planning their LTE deployments over the coming years. The research found that femtocells provide the best possible LTE user experience and improve the operator business case for the new networks while also offering alternative rollout models and supporting new services.

The forum carried out in-depth radio research which found that the addition of femtocells to the network allows femtocell users to consistently receive much closer to the headline LTE/WiMAX data rates than those connected to macrocells. The study found that femtocells can achieve this even when using the same channel as the macro network when suitable mitigation techniques are adopted.

Femtocells also overcome a spectrum-related issue that impacts WiMAX and LTE networks which are deployed in higher frequencies than today’s networks. At these high frequencies it is harder to provide a high speed data experience indoors where the vast majority of usage is expected to take place. Furthermore, a Femto Forum study also found that the MIMO (Multiple In Multiple Out) technology built into LTE and WiMAX( performs well in an indoor environment with femtocells, thereby serving to improve the user experience even further.

The Forum also commissioned Signals Research Group (SRG) to explore the business case for LTE & WiMAX femtocells. The study concluded that macro-offload network savings easily exceed the cost of the femtocell and that customer lifetime value also increases by 2 to 10 times in representative scenarios. A sample operator with 10 million LTE or WiMAX subscribers deploying femtocells to 10% of their base is able to realise a return on their incremental femtocell investment of more than 10 times.

SRG also looked specifically at how LTE and WiMAX network rollout plans can be impacted by femtocells. One strategy explored in the study involves an operator giving away free femtocells to early LTE/WiMAX subscribers in order to provide the best possible experience indoors. The research found that this could be  funded by implementing a delay in macrocell buildout, deferring 4% to 10% of the planned macrocell sites, depending upon the scenario.

Femtocells could also drive wider uptake of services such as mobile TV which are challenging to deliver widely on the macro network today. They could also enable a new breed of services such as locally streaming HD media around the home while concurrently supporting traditional cellular services. Crucially this can be achieved with guaranteed quality of service for all services unlike alternative local wireless technologies.

“The question is no longer, why should operators rollout new networks with femtocells, it is why shouldn’t they? This research shows that femtocells provide a pronounced user experience improvement while also delivering measurable financial returns for operators,” said Simon Saunders, Chairman of the Femto Forum. “It would be hard to mimic the femto LTE experience with the macrocell network alone even if you were to put a base station on the roof of every house. The vast majority of usage is going to be in homes and offices. Trying to service this need with the outdoor network is the equivalent of trying to improve the experience of reading in bed by making lampposts outside brighter instead of installing a bedside lamp.”

The research is available on the Forum’s website as a quantitative study examining the business case for femtocells in the mobile broadband era including new studies on 3G, LTE and WiMAX networks and a separate study on femtocells in OFDMA networks analysing the management of interference and capacity advantages.

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