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It looks like femtocells may soon be used to serve sparsely-populated rural areas that are conventionally thought of as uneconomic to install a cell phone tower.  Femtocells can now serve as "instant economical infrastructure" to help emergency services or rural residents who are just fed up getting the run around from their local carrier or cell phone tower companies.  Getting the attention of carriers to install new cell phone towers has been the frustration of many wireless customers who live in remote areas.  Femtocells can now provide an economic alternative to to ugly and expensive cell phone towers that often require multiple carriers piggybacking upon a new development site.

Roke Manor Research a Siemen's company has developed the world's first 3G Wide Area Coverage Femtocell capability. Using picoChip's technology as the development platform, Roke's reference design has a 40km range which delivers more than 40,000 times the area covered by most other femtocells. It is also the first to support full mobility at speeds of up to 120 kilometres per hour, allowing mobile users to travel while connected to the 3G base stations. The femtocell will support up to 12 simultaneous users, with Release 5 HSPA and a software upgrade to Release 6.

Femtocell basestations offer a low cost and low power solution for implementing a WCDMA network. However, they are only suitable for short range communications of around 200m and as such are ideal for home networks. Roke, however, can now offer all the benefits of a femtocall (small size, weight and power consumption) with an enhanced range of up to 40km.

Roke has demonstrated a reference design on a picoChip PC202 platform. The Physical Layer code has been modified to extended the coverage area by 40,000 times whilst maintaining full mobility. In essence, the Roke modifications permit a macrocell performance in terms of range and mobility within a fetmo hardware platform. The modified solution has been tested on-air at ranges up to 25km and vehicle speeds up to 120km/hr.

Benefits of Roke's modified femtocell base-station include:

  • Small Form Factor
  • Low Power Consumption
  • Range up to 40km
  • Support of 16us Delay Span
  • Mobility up to 120km/hr
  • Up to 12 users
  • IP Connection to Network
  • Circuit Switched Voice Support
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