Femtocells were introduced many years back as a residential, closed group, small base station. The intention was to provide coverage at home for high speed data (primary) and voice (secondary). It was more for coverage than capacity. In these good old days smart phones were far and few and feature phones were many. WiFi on the phone made it expensive and power hungry so cellular was the way to go.
There were many opportunities for Femtocells to take the centre stage as the concept is technologically sound but the operators have been not very willing to deploy it soon enough. Some operators were more willing to give it a try to fix their own issues, for example Softbank which gave free femtocells, in open access mode, to improve its coverage issues. Femtozone services that promised value addition provided with the Femtocells, never took off. Other promises of exclusive broadcast content using Femtocells for example never materialised due to lack of availability of the handsets and content.
Lot has changed since then. The smartphones and tablets have taken over the market, all of them have inbuilt WiFi that is generally more efficient than the cellular radio, coverage issues have become secondary and capacity issues are a bigger concern. Femtocell players have realised that except for the publicity, there isn't much to gain from the Femtocells. As a result Femtocells were replaced by the term Small cells that represents much more than the old Femtocells. The residential Femtocells have been reduced to being just voice boosters.
The different types of Small cells can be seen in the picture above. Except for the residential, the other types of small cells operate in either the open mode or the hybrid mode. Personally, I differentiate closed Femtocells from the other Small Cells. Metrocell is the upcoming type of Small cell that I believe everyone is focussing on. They operate always in the open mode and have been chosen as the promised one to solve the two major problems of capacity and coverage.
According to the Small Cell Forum introductory whitepaper, Metrocells would see an increased growth in the next few years when the operators start deploying more of them and less of the Macrocells.
So for those of you who don't know, and would like to learn more, an introductory presentation on Metrocells is available here.
If this is an area of interest and you are interested in having and in-depth understanding then we invite you to attend our Metrocells Masterclass which is a one day workshop explaining ins and outs of Metrocell.
If you are a big organisation and would like us to provide you with a private workshop, please feel free to contact us for details.
We have also started the Metrocells Blog that I will use to post information related to Small Cells and Metrocells in future. Please feel free to take a look at: http://metrocells.blogspot.com/