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O2 favours picocells

UK mobileco O2 has been heard making encouraging noises about picocells and femtocells of late. Where many of its peers are opting to do Fixed Mobile Convergence (FMC) via wifi, using UMA or SIP-enable phones, O2 looks to be favouring small indoor GSM basestations to do the same job.

The news should come as no surprise. O2 was one of the 12 winners of Ofcom’s low power spectrum auction back in April and last month fellow license winner Private Mobile Networks/Teleware showed just what could be done with the spectrum.

Teleware launched a ‘private GSM network’ in a box, using SIM cards that allow business users on a private mobile network to move seamlessly between the private and public GSM networks without making any changes to their mobile phone.

Using just one SIM in a standard GSM device, the phone automatically searches for the preferred private network and allows the caller to dodge operator call charges when on campus. When out of range of the private network, the SIM switches to the selected operator network.

O2’s offering, which is expected to be launched next year, is likely to be very similar. But some reports suggest the company could be planning to use its partnership with broadband provider Be to launch a service that puts the private GSM network box on the end of a broadband pipe.

Dean Bubley, analyst at Disruptive Analysis had previously said that the system makes a lot of sense at first sight. “Basically, it should enable enterprises to act ‘as their own MVNO’, providing employees with pseudo-private GSM networks for use while on-campus, hooked up to their landline private/VPN networks to make free on net calls between sites,” he said.

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