NEC Corp. and its partner Ubiquisys Ltd. have won a key battle today with the announcement of a femto contract from Japan’s Softbank Mobile. According to Unstrung, Softbank plans to launch commercial services with the 3G home base stations in January next year, which is the first commercial launch date that an operator has set for 3G femtos anywhere and is well ahead of the industry expectations that femto services will launch in the 2010 time-range.
Softbank is also checking out the femto solution from Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. Softbank has deployed 20,000 units as part of its trial, but an industry source at the time did not think the operator was ready yet for a mass market deployment because there were still some technical issues.
Softbank must also be confident of resolving a regulatory issue that could hinder the widescale rollout of its femtocell network. In Japan, only a qualified engineer can install a base station, and this rule applies to the small home base stations as well. The policy is expected to be changed by the end of the year.
Not so surprising when we consider the history of SoftBanks Yahoo BB play back in 2004..