Femtocells arriving from Verizon Wireless in 2009

Ubicell_fccWe got a reader tip over the weekend on Verizon Wireless femtocells (thanks, Pereira!) and sure enough, news has been trickling out since then and the units have gone through the FCC. Contrary to popular belief, femtocells aren’t molecular building blocks for fembots, they’re essentially miniature cellular points of presence; it’s like having a small cell tower on your desk, only it’s not 120-feet tall and the coverage is limited to around 5,000 square feet. Plus it doesn’t look like a fake tree. In fact, it looks like a small router (which it is) and Verizon Wireless is set to deploy them next year. Deploy is probably an exaggeration because they don’t deploy these: you do.

Verizon Wireless likely hopes that you take stock of a femtocell because it would boost wireless signal strength in your immediate area without any costly infrastructure charge on their part. There’s no details from the company on how much these will cost consumers and what benefits they might offer, but we can look at Sprint for an idea, as they’ve offered this for over a year.

Sprint customers that take advantage of a femtocell base unit pay$99 for the hardware and then an additional $4.99 monthly fee. There’salso a $10 or $20 charge for unlimited calls on a single or mutiplephone. Essentially, calls then get routed over the web much likeT-Mobile’s Hotspot @ Home service. It’s a smart way for Sprint, whodoesn’t offer landline service, to gain customers in the home.

By using femtocells, Verizon Wireless gains network coverage at lowcost and even offloads some voice traffic off of the network and ontothe broadband connection you already have. While we don’t know thedetails of any such plans yet, I tend to agree with Marguerite Reardon from CNET who says "cell phone operators shouldn’t actually be charging customers an extrafee to use these services. They should be giving it away for free inexchange for making their networks more efficient."

Unfortunately, most consumers won’t be told that femtocells help thecarrier in terms of cost reduction and quality of service. At leastthat won’t be the main selling point. What kinds of plan details wouldyou, as a Verizon Wireless customer, want to see with femtocellservice? Do we have any Sprint users of the product? Curious to hearimpressions…


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