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Qualcomm buys into UK wireless group

22 мая 2008

Qualcomm, the US chipmaker, has joined fellow telecoms technology groups Cisco, Intel and Motorola by taking a stake in Ip.access, a UK-based pioneer in a new in-building wireless technology known as femtocells.

Femtocells are similar to WiFi routers, but connect directly to 3G mobile phones. Ip.access, which is based in Cambridge, is developing the technology to allow operators to create 3G “hotspots” in their customers’ homes.

Many more mobiles contain 3G radio and WiFi, so femtocells can allow operators to improve indoor coverage and redirect traffic from their own networks to customers’ fixed-line broadband connections.

Ip.access did not reveal the size of Qualcomm’s “strategic investment”, which follows a similar deal with Cisco Systems in January. It has also raised undisclosed sums from venture backers including Scottish Equity Partners, Rothschild Gestion and Amadeus Capital Partners.

Steve Mallinson, chief executive of Ip.access, said the company was fully funded before Qualcomm’s investment. “It’s a way of tieing in a strategic partner,” he said. “Qualcomm wants a little stake in the company so it can have an open dialogue.”

In spite of the interest from larger technology companies, the femotcell market is still in its infancy. Ip.access hopes to sell “tens to hundreds of thousands” of products in 2008, according to Mr Malinson, with local pilots expected to progress into larger deployments in 2009.

ABI Research, an analyst firm, said this month that 20 trials were currently under way, but predicted just 100,000 shipments this year from providers such as Ubiquisys, Alcatel-Lucent and Ip.access. “2010 will be the year when the market moves to double-digit millions in volume,” said ABI’s report, when price points move below $100.

Ip.access already has a profitable business selling indoor 2G wireless “picocells” to corporate customers, through mobile operators such as T-Mobile in the US and Europe, Vodafone in the Netherlands and Telefonica O2 in the Czech Republic. Mr Malinson said that operators were currently trialling its femtocell technology, but declined to identify them.

Источник: Financial Times

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