Pie Networks plans private femtocell network

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Pie Networks plans private femtocell network

Plans to sell wholesale access to telcos.

Pie Networks plans to roll out global networks of "hotspot webphones" that can double as femtocells and be leased to mobile network operators to boost their coverage in high-traffic indoor locations like shopping centres.

The ASX-listed West Australian company recently won a deal to deploy 50 of the webphones - essentially payphone replacements - in Westfield shopping centres in New Zealand.

The company is also in negotiations with "other real estate operators" in New Zealand to install webphones on their sites.

Managing director Campbell Smith told iTnews that Pie eventually hoped to deploy a network of up to 1500 units in New Zealand.

"The big play isn't telephone calls on the machine - it's much more about internet access because each webphone is a wireless hotspot," Smith said.

"But equally it could be a femtocell or any other wireless technology that is appropriate. It could be used to provide supplementary coverage for mobile phones and other devices, particularly in high [pedestrian] traffic locations."

A femtocell is a small mobile base station designed to strengthen communications signals in office or residential buildings.

Smith said the New Zealand webphones did not yet have a femtocell capability but it was in the company's longer-term plans for other countries, particularly in the United States where the technology is gathering steam.

"It's really about achieving scale to make [a femtocell network] attractive to telcos," Smith said.

"We would potentially sell wholesale access to the femtocell network to more than one carrier [in the market]."

Smith said Pie would also look at opportunities domestically "but probably not this year".

"In Australia we'd look to be an owner-operator [of the network] whereas in other countries we'd look at a supplier relationship or to sell the units directly to a customer," Smith said.

"With Australia, the issue for us is available capital. With our limited capital, we'll be able to make a bigger impact in New Zealand [than Australia]."

Pie Networks also announced today a 12-month extension to a contract with the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations to monitor, support and maintain a small network of information kiosks targeting overseas students to study in Australia.

Up to 15 kiosks are located in Indonesia, Malaysia, Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam and Mexico under DEEWR's Study in Australia program.

Three of the oldest units will also be upgraded to the latest internet access controllers, Smith said.

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