Apple has applied for a patent involving femtocell technology about a year ago...
Apple has a Wi-Fi access point called Airport Express. If it were femto-integrated, it would benefit Apple and its customers. The assumption is that Apple users switch to Wi-Fi indoors, but with a femto-integrated Airport Express, 3G/4G would become the primary connectivity option for iPad and iPhone – and Wi-Fi would be the secondary option, providing connectivity to other devices in the home.
Apple’s use of femtocell technology is a disruptive move that would go against operator interest. It could sell Airport Express independently as well as through the operators. A femto-integrated Airport Express would need a SIM that would help decouple the femtocell from the operator. The big difference would be Apple tying the femtocell into its other software and hardware products. Then, the femtocell’s functionality would become the mainstay rather than the box itself, which avoids the issue of end users hesitating to pay for the femto.
Several things don't make sense or aren't complete:
How is a femtocell tied to software that runs on top of the IP environment? The Apple Airport Express is currently not a femtocell, its a well designed portable WiFi network rounter/hub.
"Airport Express would need a SIM that would help decouple the femtocell from the operator." Putting a SIM in the device does not decouple it from the operator. If Apple does that, users would still need a contract with licensed operators to use their networks or any long range licensed spectrum. There have been several proposals in the 3GPP standard groups for soft-SIM type capability with security encryption and physical device ID in hardware.
The patent has to be looked at before its value is determined. There are literally thousands of patents that cover 3G-4G networks, devices and the software and services that run on top of them.