The lack of commercial femtocell rollouts stems from operators' reluctance to be first to market, but once certain players launch the rest will follow, according to femtocell specialists ip.access.
11 operators worldwide have launched commercial femtocell offerings, with a further 60-70 involved in trials at some level.
Of those 60 or 70, some are ready to launch, and they will take the plunge if they see early adopters in their own markets launch and gain a commercial advantage, Andy Tiller, VP marketing at ip.access told Total Telecom on Tuesday.
"They just don't want to be the first to go," Tiller said.
Three European operators have launched femtocells: Vodafone in the U.K., France's SFR and Optimus in Portugal.
"The other U.K. operators are not poised ready to press the 'go' button," Tiller said, explaining why noone has yet followed Vodafone to market.
However, Telefonica O2 and Vodafone in Spain have both conducted extensive trials, and should one launch, the other would almost certainly follow.
Vodafone's reluctance to divulge the number of femtocells it has sold since its July 2009 launch, coupled with the fact it rebranded and slashed the price of the offer by a considerable amount last month, led many to suggest that the U.K. mobile operator is not having much luck with its bid to encourage customers to pay for better indoor mobile network coverage.
However, ip.access, which is not involved in the Vodafone rollout, is confident that Voda's moves bode well for the industry as a whole.
"[Vodafone] did exactly what we would expect," said Tiller. The price cut shows Vodafone is "now ready to go for the mass market."
The telco had some issues to iron out after last summer's launch and it has now done that, agreed Stephen Mallinson, ip.access CEO.
Vodafone, a long-established mobile operator, "has acknowledged it has a problem [with network capacity] and has found a solution to its problem," Mallinson said.
"Many of the carriers are still in denial about it," he added.
Meanwhile, Tiller predicts that Vodafone's recent price cut is the first of many.
"I would expect [the price] to go [down] even further," he said, suggesting that there will be more free models coming to market.
"AT&T is experimenting with free," for two reasons, he said.
Firstly, the U.S. operator offers its bundled service customers a free femtocell as an added incentive to sign up for bundles. Secondly – and AT&T's network capacity issues have been well-documented recently – the telco needs to offload traffic from its macro network.
"[AT&T needs to] get those troublesome indoor users off the network," Tiller said