KDDI selects Airvana and Hitachi for femtocell trials

KDDI, Japan’s second biggest operator has finally come clean on femtocells. This after their two main competitors Softbank and NTTDoCoMo already having launched commercial femto services. For details of the launch here is the link to the press release

The one big difference between KDDI and the others is that KDDI is a CDMA operator. I don’t necessarily really see this as having hampered vendor selection as the CDMA space has a number of suppliers including Airvana, Motorola, Airwalk, Alcatel Lucent and Samsung.

However, there is a difference in the price of CDMA femtocells versus UMTS femtocells as most of these solutions are not built on dedicated silicon yet. The one vendor who has plans in that area is Qualcomm, but has yet to make samples available. Mobile World Congress could change that but we will have to wait and see. In the KDDI case this could have been a factor in their delay on femtocells.

If we take the Sprint case, they were the first to launch a 2G femtocell back in 2008. In June 2009 they announced an upcoming launch of 3G femtocells with Airvana gear. Since then things have been quiet with no public updates available. Again, this could be because the business case doesn’t stack up as well as it does for UMTS femtocells. UMTS femtocells are known to have already reached the $100 price point.

In any case, this is another feather in the cap for Airvana. They are also one of the few vendors apart from Alcatel Lucent providing both UMTS and CDMA femtocells. Airvana’s tie up with Hitachi as a network integrator is something that has been known about for a long time, something that seems to finally bearing fruit for them.

The question is whether this will convert to a commercial launch and how soon? My bet is that Airvana is in a strong position and KDDI will not really want to waste time now that it has its trials commencing in March 2010.