Is Verizon Wireless Network Extender a Ripoff?

81 Comments

[qi:004] Updated: Verizon Wireless (s VZ) is going to launch a femtocell device on Jan. 25 that would allow you to get better coverage on your Verizon wireless line. Of course, you will need to pony up $250 for a femtocell gizmo, perhaps pay an additional monthly fee and use your own broadband network (for which you already pay a monthly fee) — all so that you can use the hardware (phone) and the service (your wireless service) you are already paying for. I can understand paying for the hardware, but additional service charges don’t make any sense. In fact, it gives Verizon and others reason to not upgrade their infrastructure and keep picking your pockets …don’t you think? (Sprint (s S) isn’t any different either.) Now that’s a racket better than Don Corleone’s business!

Update: When contacted, Verizon Wireless says it hasn’t announced the pricing just yet. “We have been testing a product and plan to make an announcement early this year,” Verizon spokesperson wrote in an email.

81 Comments

Glenn Fleishman

Rick, there’s no way to know whether this will be “fairly rare” or not. And there’s also no intent to make it easy to turn registration on. So most users will likely always be allowing up to 3 other callers to use their line.

But the actual additional cost (none for the vast, vast majority of broadband subscribers in the US), or bandwidth suckage (very slight) isn’t the point. It’s the fact that what’s theirs is theirs and what’s yours is theirs.

Even when they tell you you can control how your femtocell is used, they are being misleading in terminology and intent.

Rick

Glenn, you are most welcome for the info – I hope it was of benefit to you. As far as what I missed on page 7…I’m but an amateur!!! Finance is my “game”!

I appreciate your correction of my statement and pointing out the potential for unauthorized users. I would rather suspect that situations in which an unauthorized party makes use of an owner’s femto are going to be fairly rare, but folks should certainly be aware of the potential.

I’m not sophisticated enough to know what the financial impact of an unauthorized user would be, but I am so fed up with having only a barely usable signal in my modest townhouse-style condo (which, by the way, is located in a densely populated suburb in a decent-sized SW Ohio metro area) that I’m not likely to be too concerned…or, should I be???

Glenn Fleishman

Thanks, Rick. The press release went out today, it looks like. Pricing is $250 minus a penny.

But, Rick, you missed the mention in the user guide on page 7:

“If a handoff to the nearest compatible cell tower is not possible and all
channels are not in use, one channel may be available for an
unauthorized user to access. Callers on the managed access list are
always given priority access to the Network Extender”

So…you cannot actually restrict access at all times. Since 3 calls can be placed at the same time, this means that unless you’re using all 3 channels with authorized phone numbers, someone can always use your connection, even when they’re unauthorized.

Rick

Hey, Glenn (and any other interested parties):

First of all, despite little publicity, Verizon DID introduce their femtocell named “Extended Network” (I have the complete, official Verizon User Manual/User Guide available in .pdf format). I confirmed this by calling customer service at *611 yesterday (Jan. 25th)

To answer your specific question, the User’s Manual states “To prevent ‘unauthorized users’ from accessing the base station and diminishing your available bandwidth you have the option to restrict the use of your Network Extender by logging into My Verizon at http://www.verizonwireless.com.(see page 12 of the User Manual).

Therefore it appears that you can make your femto your own, private femto, irrespective of whether the coverage area extends into a neighbor’s residence.

To learn almost everything about Verizon’s Network Extender simply go to http://www.verizonwireless.com, enter “Network Extender” in the search box. Click on the first item that comes up entitled “FAQs: Network Extender” and the page that comes up yields tons of FAQs and answers. Then, scroll down the FAQ page to the section entitled “Network Extender Setup” and in the first FAQ, click on the link to “User Manual” and “User Guide” and a .pdf file will load up.

The User’s Manual and Guide contain a wealth of information about the femto, but obviously more questions can be posed to customer service or to personnel at a Verizon store.

No, in case anyone was wondering, I am NOT an employee of Verizon. I’m just a customer with long-term frustrations over having virtuall no signal inside my condo.

bhanu

Folks and Om,
You should understand that it costs billions of dollars to build or strengthen a cell network.

With this option , say a half a million of the existing 30 million something verizon customers buy this one , that will be
125 millions made by verizon. They do not have to fix the network , still make some revenues. And increase coverage.

On why Sprint or Verizon are not letting 3G on this device ??? ,,, its because the ISP ( Comcast, VERIZON :-) , ATTT :-) and Time Warners of the world) might complain about their bandwidth being used by the cell companies.

I am fine with a one time payment option as long as IT WORKS ( both voice and 3G services ).

Glenn Fleishman

Hey, Mike! You asked: “would this be your own private femto, or would it also give service to neighbors?”

As far as I can tell, Verizon’s leaked marketing materials don’t explain whether or not you can restrict access to the 5,000 square feet of coverage promised, which they also characterize as covering 1 to 3 floors. Sprint’s system allows you to specify up to 50 phone numbers that may use their femtocell (as part of the basic monthly cost).

Rick

I admit to not being a “techie”, but I have read a lot during the past couple of years concerning the pros and cons of femtocells. It is my understanding that the combination of local topography and construction materials used in building homes bear responsibility for most cases of poor indoor cellular signal reception.

Personally, despite being surrounded by VZN towers (all within 3 miles of my residence), I can barely obtain enough signal to complete calls while inside my condominium. This situation has been a major frustration for years. Even installing a repeater/amplifier system at a cost of $400 provided only modest signal improvement. Frankly, I cannot wait until VZN launches its femtocell product – and am willing to pay extra for the service if it does as is advertised.

I am no defender of wireless carriers. Yet, if they were to “guarantee” full 5-bar signals (both indoors and outdoors) withinin their service territory, I think it is fair to say that they would have to erect tens of thousands of new towers. Surely we all must have a pretty good idea that it is expensive to construct and operate towers (assuming carriers can first successfully navigate the maze of local zoning rules/regulations as well as prevail over the howling hordes of backward-thinking “NIMBYs” that come out of the woodwork to protest new tower construction). Assuming carriers would succeed in expanding the numbers of towers, logic dictates that consumers’ cost for cell service would rise, likely by a substantial amount – each and every month going forward.

I’m willing to “grant” carriers’ the benefits that will accrue to them from marketing fentocells as this product will also benefit us consumers in the form of stable base pricing, made possible by not having to pay carriers for the costs of adding thousands of new towers.

To those that already receive strong indoor signals, I say “fine and dandy”, you have no need for a femtocell nor no need to criticize the wireless carriers. But for the large base of cellular customers (like me) who are frustratingly forced to “put up” with poor to nonexistent indoor signals, I happen to believe that a majority of us will be willing to pony up a few more bucks (a one-time charge, perhaps) to obtain a strong, reliable indoor signal.

Ernest Nova

I guess not – it appears that the device uses a built in GPS to limit usage although one wonders what it will do if it can not find any satellites..

Ernest Nova

I guess now I can have my Verizon CDMA phone ring in any country I am willing to lug my femtocell to ?

Paul

@ Om – thanks for the update. I may soon just be one land-line lighter.

tom

the only good purpose that i can see for such a device is to avoid international roaming by using overseas when traveling.

DEC

I’ve never understood the business model. Why should I pay the provider (one-time or monthly) to improve the signal in my house. If they don’t improve their network I go somewhere else. Femtocells should be a way to reduce churn, which the carriers should pay for. I’ll never buy one…

Victor Blake

The point about zBoost is that it works for all cellular (except for iDen (one of the two sprint networks — for which they have a separate product) is that it works for multiple operators, you own it, and there is no monthly fee. I found it to be a reasonable expense and it works relatively well.

anon

paul, this is anon…

agree with your comment about the common virtual number with a grand central or similar service.

this is a simultaneous ring service. i have tried this in my family, by porting my home number to vonage and configuring simultaneous ring on all the mobiles in the family. works ok. confuses a lot of people though…

unfortunately vonage becomes another subscription… not sure if there is any free option out there…even if there is, it needs to pretty reliable, since all calls will come to it….

the other option is to port the home number to the wireless plans…but the current implementation of t-mobile us, (i.e. UMA) cannot provide the simultaneous ring service…maybe t-mobile should roll this out with an IMS core… this + the UMA will be a nice plan…any one from tmo are you out there ??

Om Malik

@phil

AT&T is currently working on a FemtoCell rollout though when remains to be seen. I think there was a story in Ars Technica around this topic.

Manju Mahishi

There would be no need for Femtocells if the carriers figured out a way of leveraging Wi-Fi which is ubiquitous. With Wi-Fi there is no need to worry about signal strength in the house (or even at work). Other than T-Mobile, there is no carrier willing to seriously consider building business models with Wi-Fi. Of course their primary concern is revenue streams. Notice how tepid the response has been by some of the major carriers to fully embrace dual mode phones and integrated voice over Wi-Fi services.

It does not cost much to add Wi-Fi capabilities to phones these days – and while voice quality may be a concern over Wi-Fi, again, with recent developments around Quality of Serive (QoS) and truly voice optimized handset designs (as opposed to merely “voice capable” handsets), I believe it is time to start demanding more from the carriers – instead of being forced to install yet another piece of technology which is designed to primarily serve their problem of poor coverage and offloading capacity to broadband networks.

We as end users should start demanding more optimized dual mode handset support from the carriers – and start using more of the 3rd party voice over Wi-Fi services on capable phones. If more users demand support for voice over Wi-Fi (VoWiFi), carriers would be forced to listen – or risk being overtaken by other competing services and business models.

phil swenson

I would kill for this on AT&T. AT&T is so spotty this is a must! I’d pay for it.

Om Malik

@Paul … about two months. I got sick and tired of paying dozens of bills and decided to go simpler. Not much in terms of dropped calls. AT&T has more dropped calls and I forward all my iPhone calls to that number at home and even in the office.

Paul

@ Anon – ah, the battle for the home number. With no children yet I’m no expert in the ultimate family phone setup, but it seems like you could use a common virtual number (from Ring Central, Grand Central or others) to reach BOTH cell phones simultaneously (whoever answers first gets the call) and send messages to all through email. Yeah, I know – try explaining it to the spouse who wants a real home phone number…

@ Om – How long have you been using the T-M WiFi arrangement? I’ve had a few dropped calls, would be interested to know if you think this is an acceptable main phone.

anon

porting your home number makes sense, as long as you are the single user of the phone. studies have shown people view home number as sort of a family thing and porting it over to one person’s device usually does not work. now more interesting services can be created….

also porting over the number does not have anything to do with wifi or femto. that is more of an handset issue.

Karthik

While I don’t know Verizon’s exact business model, I imagine the minutes carried via the femto cell are not counted towards your monthly minutes. In a way, the consumer can (a) move to a less expensive monthly plan and/or (b) drop the wireline voice service

Mike Puchol

For me the question is – would this be your own private femto, or would it also give service to neighbors? If it gives universal service, things are easy (and dandy) for Verizon, as they get extra coverage and revenue, but trying to tie a femtocell to a particular phone is hard. Any nearby device would identify the signal as a valid Verizon network cell, try to register, and be denied by the network – causing your phone to lose coverage or its battery die from the multiple handover retries. Remember, if you have better coverage from your femto, likely so does your neighbor. Any insight into this?

Om Malik

@Peter,

We have heard that there is plans to charge. I have asked for clarifications from the company and hopefully I will hear back soon even though it is a holiday. I will update that to reflect it clearly.

Ursi

Ridiculous! Reminds me of how Charter is feeing its customers to death now.

Om Malik

@Paul

I have been using the T-Mobile WiFi service and it makes more sense to me because I ported my home number to that line and now get a pretty decent service on my mobile and my hope for an extra $10 a month, which in the end is saving me cash overall.

Paul

zBoost looks interesting, but even more expensive than Verizon’s proposed femtocell.

I’ve been pretty happy with T-Mobile’s WiFi phone service. Of course, T-M doesn’t have nearly Verizon’s coverage, so this service is more important for them. Whether it’s getting coverage in remote spots (My garage is one. Friend’s beach house is another), or making/receiving nearly free calls between US and foreign hotspots, has been a deal at $10/month.

Peter

Nothing on that site indicates a monthly fee of any kind. In fact, the pricing ($249.99) vs Sprint’s $99.95 + $5 a month tells me that they will just sell it outright.

Victor Blake

Although I no longer use the Verizon Wireless service, when I did (for two years +) I used the zBoost product, which is a basic broadband wireless RF (multi-band) two-way repeater. It looks like a little WiFi AP, but is not. It connects an outdoor antenna that I have (via coax) to an indoor repeater and allows me to get the signal anywhere inside my house. While I had to pay for the device, it is independent of my broadband use (and therefore operates despite my broadband ups and downs). It does not consume broadband bandwidth. It does leave verizon paying for their own bandwidth. It SHOULD NOT be necessary, but it is because their tower is not close enough to my home. Best of all, it works across multiple bands, so now that I have a new wireless carrier, I continue to use it and it works well with my current AT&T service.

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