Network capacity and access to devices in the home from mobile devices are going to be important features in the near future. Femtocells are an interesting solution to these challenges and ip.access has shown some interesting solutions in the past on other tradeshows which I could only watch so far on Youtube. So at this year's MWC it was great to finally meet some people I've been in contact with at ip.access over time for the first time and to take a look at their femto solution first hand.
It's so simple these days to get a demo up and running at the Mobile World Congress compared to the days when you needed E-1's and other non standard links to equipment located somewhere else. Today, a simple Internet link does the job, inexpensive even at trade shows compared to dedicated E-1 lines. Ip.access made good use of it and had a number of live femtocells at their booth, connected to their femto controller back in Cambridge in the UK via an Internet connection in exactly the same way one would do at home. Interesting to see that they have partnered with Cisco for their first femto deployments, that's certainly going to raise awareness.
In retrospect it seems a bit odd that I didn't ask them if I could do a voice call on their femto, but I just believe that voice calls work, it's the core feature. Instead, I was much more interested how mobile devices can be included in the home network via the femto cell to interact with the video and music library, the television, act as a remote control, etc. I've seen it in a Youtube video before but seeing it live is always different. They wouldn't exactly tell me how the mobile is included in the local network, thus bypassing the operators network, but after seeing the demo I think I have a fair idea. Thanks for that, very interesting!
In addition, they also showed an interesting Facebook plugin where users can leave messages for a femto user which are delivered by SMS when the user's mobile finds the femto cell at home or at the office and performs a location update procedure. Great integration of social networking. The scenario can be expanded to things like getting a message when the children arrive at home after school or automated reminders to water the plants, something that would help me a great deal, as my plants never survive very long.
We continued the conversation in the evening at Casa Batlo at their dinner party and it was great to meet more people working on the technology and share their enthusiasm for their product and wireless in general. Thanks very much for that! During the evening, I was asked when in my opinion femtos will be launched for the mass market. Obviously, the first standalone femtos are very close to market readiness, the Cisco femtos at the booth are a clear indication for that. For a real mass audience, I think it will take a bit more as I see an integrated Femto/Wifi/DSL/Home Gateway box with applications such as IPTV and streaming server as an ideal platform to attract interest from consumers beyond voice coverage enhancements.
So, what do you think?