Femto cells vendors are talking up a storm at the moment, about the tiny 3G base stations that can boost network coverage inside consumers' houses. In the next few months, they will have to move on to more than talk - delivering new and more complex applications, and agreeing on standards and business models.

It will get more intense - because the competition is about to start in earnest, said Andy Tiller, vice president of marketing at femto vendor ip.Access, speaking to us after Cisco invested in the company last week.

At this stage, potential customers haven't seen real femto cells. The only commercial market trial of a femtocell is Sprint's one in the US, and that isn't a 3G device, but a CDMA one. It has a very basic proposition - cheaper calls in the house - that operators can already offer with other technology.

New services required

"Operators are telling us that is a good start, but they would like new propositions that would only work at home," says Tiller.

These femto zone services might include automatic texts when one of the residents' phones comes in range (so people can tell if their family are at home), or linking to the home network, so all music, photo and video content on the phone gets synched with the home server automatically in the background, showing the photos on the home TV, perhaps.

Tiller is bound to be interested, because ip.Access' new investor, Cisco is vitally interested in the "connected home" on behalf of its subsidiaries Scientific Atlanta and Linksys, who make set-top boxes and home gateways.

"There are a lot of companies working in femtocells," says Tiller. "It's going to be quite a competitive area."