Mobile phone users around the country and the world have noticed for a long time now that their cellular signal drops inside the home or office. This loss of coverage makes sense with the added interference of actually penetrating the walls of a building and competing with other wireless signals that are often very prolific inside a home or office.
For mobile phone users that want to drop landlines or who already have made the move to mobile phone only, the lack of coverage inside the home is a huge issue that can leave you without service or with poor service. Many of the largest cellular providers are looking at solutions to this problem and one of the most promising answers is the femtocell.
A femtocell is exactly what the word sounds like, a small cellular tower built into a package resembling a Wi-Fi router. The femtocell provides a usable wireless signal inside the home or office. The femtocell is good for the cellular provider in one aspect because it sends voice traffic over a user’s broadband network and the carrier doesn’t have to pay for the traffic.
The drawback for carriers to providing the femtocell to customers is the cost. Currently a femtocell costs in the area of $200, though the price is expected to drop to near $150 as more makers enter the market. To get customers to adopt the technology the carrier would have to subsidize the cost.
Sprint's trial femtocells cost $49.99 cost to the subscriber. Sprint also provides unlimited calls in the home to femtocell users for an additional $15 per month. Sprint spokesperson Emmy Anderson says that feedback on the femtocells has been good and there has been no interference between the femtocell and cellular tower.
Many customers will view the femtocell as an extra cost to get what they already pay for—a usable signal. Despite what may present a prejudice in a subscribers mine, Verizon announced at CTIA that it would be deploying femtocells in 2008. Verizon declined to give any specifics on its femtocells like cost and availability.
For some potential users of femtocells a big drawback could be the addition of another box into the home that already has a cable modem, wireless router, home phone, cable box and more to deal with. A French company called Thomson may have the answer to that problem; it is working on a femtocell that is built into a Wi-Fi router.