The prospect of femtocells being integrated into television sets moved a step closer this week after the consumer electronics giants Sony and Toshiba joined the Femto Forum. Qualcomm has also been added to the membership roster of the industry body.
Femtocells are small base stations that can improve indoor coverage and increase capacity. When a user is making calls and surfing the web with a phone or laptop equipped with wireless broadband, signals are sent via the femtocell and a fixed broadband connection. They also allow carriers to offload users from the regular mobile network and save money on backhaul capacity.
Today's femtocells have the same form factor as a wireless router. But when companies like Sony and Toshiba show an interest it opens the door for TVs and set-top boxes to have built-in femtocells, according to Simon Saunders, chairman of the Femto Forum.
Sony is not ready to talk about specific product plans, but given the potential of femtocells it has joined the Femto Forum to monitor developments more closely, according to a Sony spokesman.
If femtocells are to be integrated in a wide variety of consumers electronics then chip costs will have to come down and that is where Qualcomm will play an important role. The company will help increase volumes and cut costs, as well as develop chipsets customised for femtocells, according to Saunders.
Qualcomm didn't reply to calls about the company joining the Femto Forum. But this isn't the first time it has shown an interest in femtocells. Last year, the company invested in femtocell vendor ip.access.
The use of femtocells has slowly started to take off, primarily in Asia and North America. During the rest of 2009 they will be launched in Europe as well, according to Saunders. Operators will also start launching the first services beyond offering better coverage and tariffs and will take advantage of the fact that operators will know that users are at home when connecting via the femtocell, he said.
Cable & Wireless, chip maker Octasic, and Thai mobile operator True Move have also joined the Femto Forum, according to a statement.