By the Blouin News Technology staff

France’s free femtocells

by in Personal Tech.

A woman uses a cell phone on November 14, 2012 in Johannesburg. Africa's largest information and communication technology conference and exhibition known as AfricaCom focusing on telecoms, media, broadband and data services opens today in Cape Town. The number of Africa's mobile subscriptions will reach 761 million this year, making the continent once again the fastest growing market in the world. The number of subscriptions in Africa is set to hit one billion by 2015, London-based Informa Telecoms & Media said.The group forecasts the African market will have grown 18 percent by the end of next year, against the world average of 11 perecent. AFP PHOTO / STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN        (Photo credit should read STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP/Getty Images)

AFP/Getty Images/Stephane De Sakutin

Europe’s advancements in wireless have seen significant action this year with the build-out of 4G, but a company in France could be making moves that will shake up government oversight of the proliferation of broadband. Free Mobile is distributing free femtocells to customers to create a small cell network, according to reports. The installation of these femtocells in customer homes will increase coverage and bandwidth capabilities throughout the region under which the internet service provider, Iliad, delivers broadband. And it will be a marker in the European move towards more mobile.

Femtocells fall under the small cellular base station umbrella. While small cells are systems that can be installed across public or private networks to extend wireless capabilities, femtocells are the most locally used and private system sets within the small cell category. (Picocells and macrocells are the more broadly used nodes, installed and operated by carriers or manufacturers, not customers.) Useful in both remote and busy areas of coverage, either to broaden wireless or to offload mobile data traffic from a carrier’s network, small cells are physical installations that ultimately connect more users. Free Mobile’s femtocells will be private installations that will contribute to a greater wireless network.

This development is on the heels of U.S. advancements in small cell technology: big-name manufacturers including Qualcomm and Texas Instruments revealed earlier in June that they are developing base stations for the enterprise. Research indicates that small cell deployment will be a $15 billion market by 2020. And major carriers like AT&T have begun to move their small cell deployments out of testing phases.

On a related yet smaller scale, U.S.-based FreedomPop’s hotspot technology and free data plans on carriers’ networks mirror the notion that is gaining traction: Users want wireless access to be free and everywhere. While FreedomPop’s technology is unlike Free Mobile’s in that it doesn’t actually create a network overlay for its customers — more like signs them onto one — it still indicates a growing need for wireless proliferation. Free Mobile has figured that out, and intends to connect France’s users across a unique small-cell-powered network.