Picochip shares femtocell roadmapPicochip unveiled its vision for next-generation femtocells, including picoXcell(tm) technology that will allow its customers to create an entire 3G cellular basestation in an ultra-small form factor such as a USB dongle.

The concept of a basestation on a USB dongle is one of several Picochip developments in the spotlight at CES 2011, (Las Vegas Convention Center, Jan 6 – 9). Others include enabling technology for small form factor public access HSPA+ femtocells (sometimes known as picocells or microcells); picoArray technology that is already delivering 4G services around the world and enabling LTE trials today; and the company’s new platform for dual mode (LTE and HSPA+) small cells.

The availability of ultra-small femtocells will allow operators to easily add HSPA+ home-basestation capabilities to appliances such as residential gateways, cable modems and set-top boxes, simply by plugging in a USB key. A “private cellsite” solution like this will solve consumer problems of ‘not-spots’ or coverage holes, deliver far faster data services than on a conventional cell, improve battery life and enable a variety of innovative “home zone” services.

For public access products, Picochip’s new dual-mode LTE / HSPA+ solution is the only optimized platform for designers of ‘small cell’ basestations that provide both LTE and HSPA+ cellular services. It enables operators to deploy LTE in an evolutionary manner, while simultaneously maximizing return on investment in existing 3G networks. This will be crucial for operators looking to deploy femtocells in congested city centers or busy stations, providing coverage for existing 3G customers and ensuring that the system is future proof for the move to LTE.

Advances in semiconductor processing and packaging, signal processing algorithms and systems integration, along with the advent of USB 3.0, have all come together to make the concept of a USB femtocell into a realistic possibility. The development builds on Picochip’s optimized range of silicon and software products for high-volume manufacturers of residential HSPA+ femtocells, that deliver best-in-class system power budget, and have reduced the total component cost of a 3G femtocell to less than $50.

“It may sound incredible, but within a matter of months we'll be able to fit a complete 3G basestation on a USB dongle,” said Rupert Baines, VP of Marketing at Picochip. “The last year has shown just how versatile femtocell technology is. We believe that giving our customers the ability to put a femtocell on a USB dongle enables huge opportunities for Picochip, network equipment suppliers, makers of consumer products and service providers. It’s part of our vision for driving the market forward. And for end users, access to enhanced cellular services will become as simple as plugging in a USB key.”

Picochip is participating in the Femto Forum’s Femtozone at CES 2011 (South Hall Upper Level, booth 35676). The company will disclose further details of the next generation picoXcell 3G and picoArray 4G femtocell devices that will enable these developments at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, 14 – 17 February 2011.