What Does Femtocell Mean?

A femtocell is a small, fully featured, low-powered cellular base station. A femtocell is typically connected to a mobile operator’s network via a standard broadband DSL or cable service. Femtocells are so small they resemble Wi-Fi modems. They are designed for homes or business establishments.


Femtocells were originally known as access point base stations.

Techopedia Explains Femtocell

A femtocell designed for homes can usually support between two and four mobile phone users simultaneously, while those designed for enterprises can support eight to 16 simultaneous users. These tiny base stations are normally placed indoors, where signals from outdoor cell sites can have difficulty reaching mobile phone users.

Once a user’s mobile phone that is initially connected to an outdoor cell site, known as a macrocell, detects a femtocell, it will automatically transfer to it. Femtocells are designed to work with only one mobile phone operator. Therefore, to maximize the full potential of a femtocell, household members or, in the case of business establishments, co-workers are encouraged to subscribe to the same mobile carrier.

Femtocells are most widely used in wideband code division multiple access (WCDMA) networks. However, other standards like the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM), CDMA2000, Time Division Synchronous Code Division Multiple Access (TD-SCDMA), WiMAX, and LTE also support it.

A typical household femtocell has an operating radius of about 33 to 55 yards. Thus, in most cases, it can still be detected even while the user is outdoors.

There is no change in the way a user makes a call while connected to a femtocell. The only main difference is that signals received by the femtocell are sent to the mobile operator’s switching centers via the broadband IP network as encrypted data.


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Margaret Rouse

Margaret Rouse is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical, business audience. Over the past twenty years her explanations have appeared on TechTarget websites and she's been cited as an authority in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine and Discovery Magazine.Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages. If you have a suggestion for a new definition or how to improve a technical explanation, please email Margaret or contact her…