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Qualcomm takes aim at enterprise with femtocell chipset

The chip maker wants to expand the use of femtocells beyond the residential market

Qualcomm has expanded its product portfolio for femtocells with a chipset that will allow the small base stations to handle up to 32 active users, opening the door for use in enterprises and metro networks, the company said on Monday.

A CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) version of the upcoming chipset, called the FSM9832 (Femtocell Station Modem), will start shipping in the second half of 2011, according to Qualcomm.

Femtocells are used to improve indoor mobile broadband 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. For carriers, femtocells also provide a chance to offload users from the regular mobile network, and save money on backhaul capacity.

Today, femtocells are mainly used for residential applications. But just like there are homes with bad coverage, there are offices with subpar coverage that could benefit from installing a femtocell.

The FSM9216 and FSM9816, which can handle up to 16 active users at the same time, have also been added to Qualcomm's lineup. Versions for UMTS and CDMA are already available, according to Qualcomm.

To help inspire hardware makers, Qualcomm has also developed a hardware reference design that combines a Wi-Fi access point with a femtocell, allowing operators to create services that let their enterprise customers connect to both Wi-Fi and cellular networks, the company said.

The new chipsets complement existing FSM 3G femtocell chipsets, which support up to eight users and are targeted at the residential market.

In June, there were 31 commercial femtocell services worldwide, and eight of the top 10 mobile operator groups, in terms of revenue, offered femtocell services, according to market research company Informa Telecoms & Media.

Send news tips and comments to mikael_ricknas@idg.com


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