LONDON Market research group Strategy Analytics has given chip design group picoChip an early Christmas present, suggesting low cost femtocells using its designs could emerge as a strong contender for Voice over IP services over Wi-Fi.
PicoChip and some other companies have developed baseband processors for very low-cost femtocell base stations that can be installed in the home or small office.
According to Strategy Analytics ( Milton Keynes, England) these have the potential to reduce the demand for cellphones that include Wi-Fi capabilities, which many in the cellphone industry believe will emerge in high volumes over the next several years to support the convergence of fixed and mobile communications.
Chris Taylor, Director of the RF & Wireless Component service said: "Femtocells will attract wireless operators and consumers alike. However, the bill of materials for femtocells will have to fall close to that of cellphones that include Wi-Fi chipsets for femtocells to really take off."
Asif Anwar, Director of the Strategy Analytics Compound Semiconductor Service, commenting on the femtocell opportunity for component suppliers, added: "The handset market shows that GaAs can compete against silicon technologies on cost, but the low transmit power of femtocells suggests that this market will probably use SiGe and LDMOS transistor-based PAs initially, eventually shifting to transceivers with on-chip CMOS PAs."
Several European mobile operators are known to be looking seriously at using both picocells and femtocells to widen their offerings for broadband wireless in the home and small offices. One of the most aggressive has been U.K. operator 02 and start-up Private Mobile Networks / Teleware, who have both been successful in gaining frequencies in Ofcom's recent low power spectrum auction.
Unlike many others who are looking to offer fixed mobile convergence over standards such as Unlicensed Mobile Access (UMA) or SIP-enabled phones, these operators are also considering such small and relatively cheap indoor GSM basestations.