Apple granted patent regarding the use of femtocells

Apple has been granted a second patent (number 9,191,839) by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office for taking advantage of afemtocell-connected network. A femtocell is a small, low-power cellular base station typically reserved for use in a home or small business. 

A femtocell is, basically, a miniature cell phone tower that anyone can use to boost their wireless signal in their home. Most of the major U.S. wireless carriers sell femtocells, as do other retailers, and they can typically be purchased for US$150 to $250. Such a device, which resembles a wireless router, essentially acts as a repeater. The device communicates with the mobile phone and converts voice calls into voice over IP (VoIP) packets. The packets are then transmitted over a broadband connection to the mobile operator's servers.

There are pros and cons to using a femtocell. One plus is that the coverage is likely to remain consistent wherever you are located in the office/home. It also makes it easier to use your mobile phone as your main phone, something more and more folks are doing.  Femtocells can limit how many people are permitted to log on, restricting coverage. It makes using a femtocell in a small office attractive.

However, there are drawbacks. Femtocells utilize the broadband connection, which may also be used for other applications such as video streaming. There can be problems when the provider of the broadband service differs from the mobile network provider. It's also possible that in a crowded environment, such as an apartment building, there could be interference between femtocells.

Apple’s patent is for methods and an apparatus for configuration of femtocells in a wireless network that enable and optimize the simultaneous operation of several wireless femtocells having overlapping coverage areas. In one embodiment of the invention, a resource allocation (e.g., time-frequency grid for an OFDM or TDMA based wireless network) governs the simultaneous operation of several femtocells with overlapping coverage areas by specifying uses for resources. 

A resource allocation unit (RAU) entity is disclosed for managing and modifying resource allocations for femtocells. The community of femtocells can flexibly share resources according to the time-frequency grid, thereby maximizing spectral efficiency without requiring substantial network overhead.

Earlier this year, Apple was granted a patent (number 9,119,141) for a system and method of enabling a mobile device to communicate with a local IP network host and an external IP network host using a femto cellular access point on a femto cellular access network. The invention would provide a method and system for allowing multiple devices that are coupled through a femto cell, such as user equipment and network terminal devices, to communicate with each other while the user equipment is located within the femtocell or while the user equipment is located outside the femtocell.