How Can Small Cell APIs Help Service Providers Create New Revenue Opportunities?

Next Generation Communications Blog

How Can Small Cell APIs Help Service Providers Create New Revenue Opportunities?

By Mae Kowalke

Service providers looking for a way to boost indoor coverage for wireless networks are increasingly turning to small cell application programming interfaces (APIs), more commonly referred to as femtocells.

A femtocell is best defined as a small, cellular base station that connects to a service provider’s network using broadband. Femtocells are most commonly used in homes or small businesses, and are typically capable of supporting connections for up to 16 active mobile phones.

“A femtocell allows service providers to extend service coverage indoors, especially where access would otherwise be limited or unavailable,” notes Wikipedia. “Although much attention is focused on WCDMA, the concept is applicable to all standards, including GSM, CDMA2000, TD-SCDMA, WiMAX and LTE solutions.”

Femtocells are especially attractive because they don’t use much power and are capable of providing 5-bar signal strength for ‘dead zones’—indoors and out. Dell’Oro Group predicts that shipments of small cell base stations will increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 163 percent during the next four years, reaching 61.8 million units by 2014.

Alcatel-Lucent notes that small cells offer improved coverage and additional network capacity for applications like presence and services like location information. For service providers, small cell APIs represent a significant opportunity to grow revenues. The market for this technology is very real: in a recent survey, 72 percent of end users said they would pay for services enabled by femtocells.

In other words, it’s about more than just extending physical coverage.

“To date, industry discussions about small cells have been around fixing poor indoor coverage,” Alcatel-Lucent said in a recent article about femtocells. “However, small cells can also be leveraged to enable the development and delivery of new intelligent applications and services that are valued by end users. This makes small cells a true business platform and an integral part of a complete application enablement strategy.”

Service providers seeking to capitalize on the benefits of femtocell deployments must work with third-party content and application providers to develop advanced services customers are willing to pay for, delivered using small cell base stations.

“Each cell provides unique end-user usage and positioning information such as whether the mobile device is active in a voice or data session,” noted Alcatel-Lucent in its article.  “Access to this information enriches the small cell APIs. This can be combined with network capabilities, such as location, presence, Quality of Service (QoS) and trusted security to enable application development by in-house or external application and content providers.” 

Read the full article for more detail about the benefits of femtocells, including examples of how this technology can be used to increase network coverage and deliver revenue-enhancing services.

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