Netgear Makes a Femtocell

By Eric Griffith

June 26, 2007

This gateway will incorporate Wi-Fi, 3G and cellular connections, all running off DSL in your home.

Netgear is working with femtocell maker Ubiquisys on a 3G femtocell with a Wi-Fi access point for resale by mobile carriers next year.

The unnamed product will do everything a DSL modem/Wi-Fi router combo, typically called a residential gateway, will do today, and will also add femtocell service to extend a carrier’s signal into the home. In this case, the device will support UMTS and HSPA (as well as HSUPA and HSDPA) for 3G connections.

Ubiquisys makes the ZoneGate femtocell, which uses DSL for the backhaul connection to the carrier; that technology will be integrated in the Netgear product.

VoIP is also one of the new gateway’s key features. Jay Kim, product line manager for femtocell products at Netgear, says this unit will support both UMA and SIP/IMS.

Despite the arrival dates for this product (sampling this year, with commercial availability by early 2008), Kim says it will initially only support standard 802.11g, not 802.11n -- this despite the fact that the Wi-Fi Alliance this week started actual testing of 11n products for interoperability, months before the 11n standard is ratified. However, that’s not stopping vendors – including Netgear – from  pumping out 802.11n products today based on the 2.0 draft of 11n.

Femtocells and UMA are both rivals and compatriots. The two technologies compete in the fact that both are used to extend a mobile carrier’s reach into the home, the former with standard cellular signals, the second using cellular-to-Wi-Fi hand-off. But UMA developer Kineto Wireless – also a Ubiquisys partner – is also working on using UMA as a backhaul solution for femtocells. As the UMAtoday.com blog states, "UMA... is a generic IP access technology that can be used to implement a dual-mode handset (DMH) service with cellular/Wi-Fi phones, but it’s not actually tied specifically to Wi-Fi" -- and UMA "plays a key role in a mass-market femtocell solution."

ABI Research recently said that FMC has an early lead, but that femtocells will skyrocket after 2010; it also ranked Ubiquisys the number one femtocell vendor last week, ahead of ip.access and RadioFrame Networks, based on criteria like “innovation” and “implementation.”

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