First femtocells go on trial

First femtocells go on trial

The wireless transmitters could help expand the reach of 3G services

The UK's first trial of femtocell technology enabling the widespread use of 3G services is going ahead through a partnership between NEC and O2.

Femtocells act like miniature mobile base stations, using a broadband connection to extend the reach of wireless networks. The emerging devices could potentially be used to extend phone coverage into cut-off areas deep within buildings, or to offer businesses a cheap way to expand their connectivity.

The trial is to expand across the country this summer, and the commercial launch is planned for early next year.

"The trial marks a watershed in the industry, as the benefits of femtocell technology for both operators and subscribers will be tested and proven for everyone to see," said NEC vice president Richard Hanscott.

"O2 is taking a leading approach to trial this solution which will help meet subscriber demands, and will reap the benefits when the service is launched commercially."

By 2012, shipments the European femtocell market is expected to ship 16.6 million units per year, at a total value of $4.2bn (£2.1bn), according to ABI research. And the continent will represent the largest slice of a global market shipping 36 million devices annually.