Femtocells promise to alleviate one of the most common issues that plague mobile phone users; that of poor signal strength inside a home or office. The small devices route cellular signals through a broadband internet connection when in range.
ABI Research reports that the recession has slowed femtocell deployment, but the research firm says that is only temporary.
ABI Research analyst Aditya Kaul said in a statement, "Femtocell rollouts to date have been limited, controlled ones. But ABI Research expects that 2010 will see shipments climbing well above a million units."
According to Kaul, the femtocell deployment race will start in earnest in late 2009 or early 2010 when a major mobile operator announces a multi-city commercial femtocell deployment. The analyst believes that the deployment will push other mobile operators to follow.
ABI believes that one significant barrier to femtocell deployment today is the price of the hardware. Analysts believe that the femtocell market can operate at various price points, but the psychological barrier for many buyers will be $100. ABI notes that a low-cost femtocell is essential to bridging the gap between niche markets and the mass market.
Kaul also points out that at this point there has been no real test of a large-scale femtocell deployment in the real world. All tests have been simulated thus far. He notes, "These challenges are all valid, but none of them are show-stoppers – there’s no ‘elephant in the room’ that will pose a major obstacle to large-scale deployment."
The mobile operator that Kaul is alluding to could well be Verizon. Verizon announced in October 2008 that it would be offering femtocells in early 2009. The catch is that not only will Verizon customers need to buy the femtocell at $99.99; customers will also have to pay an additional $10 or $20 per month on their phone bill.