Verizon Wireless will start offering in-home cellular base stations, known as femtocells, on January 25. Femtocells use licensed frequencies and a subscriber’s own backhaul to extend a cellular network indoors, and avoid requiring new handsets.
As we reported just a few days ago, AT&T is querying its customers about a future femtocell launch that it has been testing with its employees, and Sprint already offers the Airave extender.
Femtocells allow a carrier to fill in areas that are hard or impossible to cover with conventional base stations, such as interior rooms of a house, or homes and businesses that have the best signal propagation in directions away from where cellular towers are located. (I had Verizon service a few years in an office that was practically a bunker on its south side into a hill, and I confirmed with Verizon that facing north, there wasn’t a tower for some distance.)
Gizmodo has obtained a product manual and launch plans ahead of time, and first reported on the development.
Verizon appears to plan to offer the femtocell at a whopping $250 with no discounts for contract length or a monthly rental. Even more surprising is that the marketing sheets show no benefit beyond improved coverage. Sprint is offering—and AT&T potentially will offer—unlimited calling over femtocells as part of a $5 to $10 per month charge. (Of course, people calling from home are more likely to be within the 8 pm to 8 am or weekend unlimited calling plans, anyway.)
T-Mobile offers a competing service, HotSpot@Home, that uses unlicensed mobile access (UMA). T-Mobile’s flavor relies on Wi-Fi to carry voice and data from special dual-mode handsets, of which many models are now available. UMA handsets work at WiFi hotspots or on home or office networks. T-Mobile offers subsidized WiFi gateways that include quality of service prioritization for voice packets and battery life extension through a power-saving protocol that handsets and gateways must both share. T-Mobile charges $10 per month for unlimited calling for 1 to 4 lines on a plan. (UMA is also being used in several European countries, most prominently by BT in Britain.)
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