Hampshire, England: Using picoChip’s technology as the development platform, Roke Manor Research claims it’s developed the world’s first 3G wide-area-coverage femtocell capability. The reference design has a 40km range. It supports full mobility at speeds of up to 120km/hr, allowing mobile users to travel while connected to the 3G basestations.
This solution could be used to cost-effectively serve sparsely populated rural areas that are conventionally thought of as uneconomic. Or it could help in quickly deploying cellular coverage, such as in the creation of an “instant infrastructure” to help emergency services after a natural disaster.
The new femtocell requires minimum infrastructure, and its small form factor significantly reduces power consumption. It supports up to 12 simultaneous users with Release 5 HSDPA, and there’s a software upgrade to Release 6 HSUPA. Roke also developed custom firmware enhancements to picoChip’s standard PC8208 femtocell solution.
“Previously the best range femtocell technology could deliver was two kilometres, useful for wireless services on a campus, but uneconomic for network operators that would have to deploy large numbers in order to fill signal black holes in the countryside,” says Prasid Shah, business sector manager at Roke.
“Roke’s concept means that a reliable 3G mobile service in some of the most remote areas in the world is now a cost-effective reality for network operators, which could be a solution to help address the ‘digital divide.’ Alternatively, the ‘plug-and-play’ nature of a femtocell allows carriers to quickly deploy a robust network, even if there is little infrastructure in place. This can be used by emergency services or aid workers to offer complete voice and data service even after an earthquake or natural disaster has destroyed conventional cellular facilities,” says Shah.
Rupert Baines, VP of marketing at picoChip, adds that “there is a growing awareness of how femtocells can be used in a variety of ways, to cost-effectively address a range of different problems. Roke’s development of a low-cost long-range femtocell opens up many applications and deployment opportunities. picoChip’s focus is to provide technology that enables new types of cellular communications services cost-effectively. Building on our proven femtocell technology, Roke has achieved this and now offers network operators a genuine alternative to traditional base station deployment.”