Analog Front End for 3G Femto Base Stations Brings Wireless Connectivity Home


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Imagine a device that can provide high-quality cellular phone reception within your home, allowing you and your family unlimited voice and data usage for a low monthly fee. A femto base station, usually referred to as a femtocell, provides all that and more. This small wireless device, which improves local wireless coverage when placed in a home or office, is poised to dramatically change the wireless infrastructure landscape. Figure 1 illustrates the femtocell concept. While traditional base stations provide wide area coverage, a femtocell provides wireless coverage in a small area such as a residence. The femtocell routes mobile traffic to the network through the user’s broadband Internet connection, thus offloading traffic from the radio network. The femtocell improves the capacity of the network, while reducing backhaul, power, and maintenance costs for the operator. It also enables operators to compete for services in homes that have limited signal coverage. In exchange for a subsidized femtocell, the operator adds an additional fee to the customer’s monthly cellular plan. When in the femtocell zone, all mobile usage would be covered under the home billing plan, allowing unlimited voice and data usage in the home without incurring large monthly bills. The proximity of the femtocell enables a high quality link, while simultaneously reducing handset battery usage. The femtocell overcomes the limitation of 3G signals from the base station to penetrate walls, enabling high-speed access to mobile data services such as browsing the Internet, downloading music, and streaming video on the handset. The femtocell, similar to a Wi-Fi router, is based on proven wireless infrastructure standards (UMTS, CDMA). Compatible with emerging standards, it provides an efficient, robust wireless link using operator-owned spectrum. Compatibility with existing handsets makes the connection transparent to the user. Unlike a macrocell network, which aggregates tens or hundreds of base stations onto the core network, a femtocell gateway must manage thousands or even millions of femtocell nodes

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