Femtocells have received rapt attention for their potential both to improve indoor mobile network coverage and to offer a fixed-mobile convergence solution.
Yet a similar technology, the picocell, provides better coverage than the femtocell, and has already been around for a decade.
Picocell’s provide the ideal communications solution for small and medium sized business, yet only 18,000 units have sold worldwide in the last year.
ABI Research believes the failure of picocell’s to take off is because of their high ownership costs.
Picocells are usually operated and maintained by mobile operators, and installation and servicing both cost operators money.
Femtocells, on the other hand, have minimal ownership costs.
As such, operators have been waiting for femtocells to be properly trialled and tested, and for standards to be established, before deciding whether or not they’ll opt for femtocells or picocells.
ABI analyst Aditya Kaul says that if picocell vendors are to survive, they need to start innovating, and fast.
The first new innovation should be a low-cost 3G picocell incorporating the plug and play capabilities that make femtocells cheap to maintain.
Kaul believes there is a time limit on picocells entering the mainstream market.
The gap between the small capacity provided by femtocells and the large capacity needed by SMEs could be filled by the picocell, said Kaul, but only if the next generation of picocells drastically reduce maintenance costs.
If the picocell doesn’t adapt soon, then it could be consigned forever to the history books, replaced by super femtocells with increased capacity.