Print 17 comment(s) - last by Silvergoat.. on Nov 13 at 10:57 AM

Slower adoption by mobile operators blamed

The mobile phone industry is plagued by a number of issues that are common between all major providers. One of the biggest of these issues is that fact that inside some homes and offices the mobile signal is not strong enough to provide a consistent call quality for mobile users.

The lack of a consistent signal inside the office or home means that users experience dropped calls and slower data speeds. The answer to this problem seemed to be femtocells. A femtocell is a small device that looks similar to a router for internet access that picks up the wireless call and sends it over the user's broadband network rather than the mobile phone network.

Femtocells were also looked at as a way for mobile network operators to improve speeds and reduce the overall load on their networks. The reality is that femtocells have been deployed in much lower numbers than was predicted by analysts and mobile providers.

ABI Research today issued a notice that it had reduced the expected number of femtocells that will ship this year by 55%. The research firm blames the reduction in its estimates on the fact that mobile operators have been slower to adopt the technology than expected. ABI now estimates that 350,000 femtocells will have been shipped by the end of the year.

ABI's Aditya Kaul said, "Even femtocell vendors are a bit surprised that the operators haven’t pushed femtocells as much or as soon as expected. We expect that deployments in 2010 will pick up but will be slower than expected – our data suggests about a 40% reduction on previous estimates."

As for why carriers are slow to adopt the technology the reason is unclear. ABI reports that some feel femtocells have yet to prove their worth. Others believe that the poor economy is contributing to the slow adoption. The economy is a good reason. Femtocells require users to pay more each month to provide better signal. A strong signal is something that many users expect their carrier to provide for the money they already pay each month.

Kaul said, "We still believe in this market’s potential. We anticipate that by 2014, shipments will only be about 10% lower than our previous estimates. The drivers are real, but it will take longer than anticipated. Next year will be critical: if conditions don’t improve by the end of 2010, some smaller vendors may find themselves in trouble."

ABI reported in March that femtocell deployment was slow due to the economy. At the time, the number of femtocells shipped was expected to climb to over a million units in 2010.

The launch of femtocells from Verizon was expected to happen in 2008, which never really materialized. Verizon then reported that it would launch femtocells in early 2009 along with handsets that would support Femtocells. Verizon is currently offering femtocells to its customers for an extra $10 to $20 per month added to the phone bill.

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Wireless Customers Don't Want to Pay Extra
By ckmac97 on 11/12/2009 10:49:26 AM , Rating: 5
Wireless customers don't want to pay an extra $10 - $20 dollars per month to fix a provider's signal coverage. Using the bandwidth from their own internet connection also seems like a slap in the face.

RE: Wireless Customers Don't Want to Pay Extra
By MrPoletski on 11/12/2009 10:55:29 AM , Rating: 1
exactly, can't they make a simple signal repeater, big antenna (well bigger than the one in your phone) you stick on your house roof that relays the signal down within your house. If you can build and sell that for $30 then you're laughing.

By Diesel Donkey on 11/12/2009 12:04:04 PM , Rating: 3
The technology exists, but the cost is more like $200-$400. Here's an example:

By rzrshrp on 11/12/2009 10:58:32 AM , Rating: 4
Agreed, they should just offer the hardware. Why would I pay a monthly fee in addition to my cell phone bill in order to get wireless over MY internet connection?

RE: Wireless Customers Don't Want to Pay Extra
By HotFoot on 11/12/2009 11:32:57 AM , Rating: 2
With many smart phones now connecting to your wifi already, that's a whole segment of the market for which the femtocell is a total redundancy anyway.

RE: Wireless Customers Don't Want to Pay Extra
By rtrski on 11/12/2009 1:35:37 PM , Rating: 2
Data-wise, true. But I don't think calls can go out over 'wifi' connections.

RE: Wireless Customers Don't Want to Pay Extra
By Cubexco on 11/12/2009 9:21:15 PM , Rating: 1
Yes, they do. It's called UMA.
T-Mobile markets it as HotSpot. For an extra $10 a month, your phone can make calls through your or any wi-fi network.
They (T-Mobile) even have these HotSpot wi-fi available at many airports.
Any calls made over wi-fi (UMA) do not count against your plan minutes, and the $10 is fixed, whether you have 1 line on your plan, or a Family Plan with 5 lines.
Check out

By HotFoot on 11/13/2009 9:35:34 AM , Rating: 2
Or if you have a VoIP application, you're just making a call like over a computer.

My goal is to get my phone (ordered it now) working with Skype or the like using my home wifi connection at home, and as many free wifi hotspots as I can - say if I want to chat while at a coffee shop. Then, have a data plan for everything else.

By rudy on 11/12/2009 12:07:49 PM , Rating: 2
You are correct but if you call them and complain you get one for free like me. But they should not make it that hard for people to get these free.

By drebo on 11/12/2009 2:30:10 PM , Rating: 2
This is the biggest problem. It is infinitely cheaper for calls to be terminated over the Internet versus cell towers. Cell companies should be paying you to have these, not charging you.

I need one
By bildan on 11/12/2009 11:14:46 AM , Rating: 4
My cell Verizon reception at home is terrible. I have broadband cable so why haven't I bought a femtocell? Cost and a the availability of a good alternative is one answer.

Instead of shelling out $250 I signed up for Skype. Google Voice may turn out to be a better answer.

For Cell carriers, the game isn't skimming revenue off early adopters, it's holding on to their current customers.

I haven't renewed my contract with Verizon so I'm on a month-to-month basis - and looking for a better deal. If Verizon offered their femtocell free, I'd probably stick with them for a long time.

RE: I need one
By rtrski on 11/12/2009 1:37:41 PM , Rating: 1
Instead, Verizon is talking about doubling their contract termination fee for smartphones to $350, less -$10 per month. So even after two years, you still get shafted.

Glad I dumped them, even if Sprint's coverage in my home is a bit worse for calls; I'm getting more service (full data plan) on the whole family for considerably less than I was paying V.

RE: I need one
By gigahertz20 on 11/12/2009 3:18:13 PM , Rating: 2
I live in a area where there is very poor cell phone service, the only provider that I even get a signal with is Verizon. If I'm inside or even outside my home and make a call, the caller's voice constantly drops in and out. If I go down the street a little, it is fine.

I found out that Verizon offers their Samsung network extender about 2 months ago, I called them up and they wanted $250 for it. I argued with them for awhile and told them how I shouldn't have to pay for this device just to receive cell phone coverage that I'm already paying for. They knocked the price down to $150 and wouldn't budge from there.

It was pretty easy to setup, just plugged it into my router and stuck the external GPS antenna that comes with it to a window. I have no problem with reception now anywhere in my home or outside. The only thing I've noticed was a few times I've had to power off and power back on my router, modem, and verizon extender to get it to work again. I also think my Wii might interfere with it, because last time I went online with my Wii to update it, my verizon extender stopped working. It could have just been a coincidence, I'll have to try it again to know for sure.

Bottom Line: The Verizon extender/femtocell works great for people that have poor cell phone coverage in their home. If you call up Verizon and hassle them you should get it for $150 or so.

By casteve on 11/12/2009 11:57:20 AM , Rating: 2
Verizon's femtocell is a one time cost of $250. Sprint charges a monthly fee.

I live in a marginal reception area with little chance of improved coverage due to NIMBY issues/local politics. I purchased the Verizon femtocell last spring and now I don't have dropped calls. I killed my ATT land line a month later and saved $24/mo.

Pretty straight forward math. Breakeven point in less than a year.

Why arent these being used?
By StraightPipe on 11/12/2009 12:57:28 PM , Rating: 2
Because of draconian restrictions put on them by the wireless carriers. Verizon and ATT dont even allow you to use UMA.

At least T-mobile has gotten it right with their @home router (that's not really a femtocell, it's a wireless router). If your phone has wifi and supports UMA, then you pay $10 a month for @home service (the router is free + and they give you a pair of free Vtech cordless phones).

that $10 gives you a land line (VOIP) and allows your cell phone to call over Wifi for free.

Now if the big guys (Verizon and ATT) were doing this with a femtocell it would be worth paying for.

think about it. If you put one in your office, then all company cell phones can dial out over the broadband connection and get free unlimited calling. This helps reduce the strain on the cell towers (god knows AT+T needs the help) and makes customers happy.

UMA and Free VOIP calling is the key to making these work.

3G just now coming out....
By rtrski on 11/12/2009 1:34:35 PM , Rating: 2
The other problem through 2009 is the femtocells on offer so far only support the calls on your internet bandwidth, and supply the basic 'data' capabilities only (1xRTT I believe). AT&T is just in the last month or two test marketing one with true "3G" data, and Sprint's hasn't come out yet that I've seen (test market much less actual). Yet they've already deployed their 4G in my city (not that there are any phones that support it yet).

Granted a lot of the smartphones have WiFi too, so lacking 3G in the cell isn't a huge deal if you're already sporting a home wireless network, but would be nice not to have to enable to extra radio and remember to turn it off when you leave, else suffer the battery consequences.

Femtocells Verizon/Alltel
By Silvergoat on 11/13/2009 10:57:02 AM , Rating: 2
We get poor cell reception and had purchased the Verizon version of the Femtocell. Despite extensive tech support (who did really try), we were unable to get connectivity. After two months, the techs told me that anyone who were Alltel subscribers(as it was recently purchased by Verizon) will have to wait 6-18 months to be "integrated" into the Verizon network and are unable to use the network extenders. So I would caution the former Alltel subscribers against buying the extenders until Verizon completely digests Alltel.

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