Femtocells promise to provide wireless coverage "where no cell has gone before," delivering improved, more cost-effective performance to cellular handsets. The concept of a femtocell is basically that of a personal base station, allowing users to access larger base stations and enjoy such services as voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) with reduced connection costs.

The hype surrounding market sizes for these small wireless infrastructure units has been enormous, but the actual markets so far have been modest. According to a recent study by ABI Research (www.abiresearch.com), about 100,000 femtocells will ship this year, with some growth in sales in 2009 but the real market explosion in 2010. The "Femtocell Market Challenges and Opportunities" Research Report, which is part of the firm's Femtocells Research Service, tracks the rapid changes in the fast-growing femtocell market.

The company predicts that a turning point for this market will be late 2009, where technical and price barriers have been overcome. At that point, it will be up to the wireless carriers to take advantage of the enhanced infrastructure with robust business models and creative service plans, so that customers can enjoy the benefits of "their own cell sites."