Here come the FemtoCells

It’s been a long wait, but it seems that Femtocells – miniature cellular base station that sit inside our homes and offices and amplify cellular signals – are making it to the market. Over past few days, an increasing number of companies have started to announce availability of femtocell devices.

2Wire, which makes DSL residential gateways, and is part owned by AT&T, recently announced that it will include femtocell functionality in its devices. The voice calls can be carried over the DSL connections, without needing a WiFi connection.

This makes the technology more acceptable for folks who don’t have WiFi-functionality in their phones. Netgear, recently teamed up with Ubiquisys and will develop a new residential gateway that will have integrated DSL modem, Wi-Fi, VoIP and 3G femtocell technology, and will be available in 2008. NokiaSiemens Networks and Thomson are also working together on similar devices, the two companies announced today. Nokia Siemens will provide the femto cell for Thomson’s DSL gateways.

ABI Research predicts that the femtocell unit shipments for 2008 will increase to a million units from 50,000 in 2007. By 2012 there will be 152 million users of femtocell products on 36 million access points worldwide, they predict.

While those predictions may seem to be too optimistic, one does have to admit that the carriers are going to do their best to push femtocells. Mobile carriers are obviously worried by the impact of WiFi and VoWiFi on their voice revenues. Vodafone, world’s cellular operator has issued an RFP for femtocells, much like France Telecom, the parent company of Orange.