Femtocells, despite their name, pose a potentially large disruption to the carefully planned cellular networks that now connect a majority of the planet’s citizens to the Internet and with each other. Femtocells — which by the end of 2010 already outnumbered traditional base stations and by March 2012 being deployed at a rate of about five million a year — both enhance and interfere with this network in ways that are not yet well understood.
Will femtocells be crucial for offloading data and video from the creaking traditional network? Or will femtocells prove more trouble than they are worth, undermining decades of careful base station deployment with unpredictable interference while delivering only limited gains? Or possibly neither: are femtocells just a “flash in the pan”; an exciting but shortlived stage of network evolution that will be rendered obsolete by improved WiFi offloading, new backhaul regulations and/or pricing, or other unforeseen technological developments?
This tutorial on femtocells overviews femtocells, demystifies their key aspects, and provides a preview of the next few years, by discussing in great depths the many aspects and facets of the femtocell eco system.