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back to article Vodafone offers customers chance to pay for own infrastructure

Vodafone surprised delegates at today's Femtocell Summit by announcing that from the first of July, UK customers will be able to buy their own Femtocell, thereby extending Vodafone's network through their own broadband connection. Femtocells are tiny base stations, GSM in this case, which connect to a broadband connection and …

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pay twice!

Although i am sure there will be a way that you can save some money using this method... the fact that vodafone has not even conceived of it yet is pretty typical.

They have not even managed to get their on line billing system up yet (3 months down time and you can now only view a bill, not pay for it).

Vodafone should be giving the device free and paying you to route calls.. in the same way that small scale electric generation is sold back to the grid.

And i have not even come close to the unlimited and throttling issues our outdated broadband system will give us.

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Where do I sign up?

I'll have one. Thanks.

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What do these things provide?

Do they just give access to your phones (can't see how that would be possible), or any of the carrier's handsets within range? If so, how much bandwidth would they consume, and would you end up getting knobbed by your ISP for using up your monthly quota (if you have such a thing)?!!

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Consumers?

I don't get how this helps consumers? If I am in my home why don't I just use my Wi-Fi connection rather than 3G network for data based transactions such as web browsing?

Is this just for people with poor coverage in their area? Which I hear is very common with Vodaphone compared to other network providers.

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Stop

May I be among the first . . .

50 people to say; what's in it for me? Why would I want to pay this much just so that my phone (and presumably any other freeloader walking past) can use my wired bandwidth at my expense not counting the upfront cost of the device.

I apologise for my simplistic views but presumably if I am at ahome and have a broadband connection I can use that to access the internet, send emails, etc. on my computer (isn't that why I have broadband at home?) unless I just can't be bothered to get off my increasingly lardy arse to actually turn the bugger on.

I can see thepoint of leeching off someone else's bandwidth when I'm out and about and the vodaphone signal is poor but, well I think you get the point.

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Cheapskates

So the customer pays for the hardware, backhaul and running costs to get the 3G coverage that Vodaphone should be providing?

How do ISPs feel about Vodaphone piggybacking on their "unlimited" broadband infrastructure, especially on the upload side? Will (residential) customers who could benefit most from this technology have access to sufficient broadband?

Will Vodaphone offer a discount on calls routed through the femtocell or will they charge standard rates? Will the next door neighbours' phones be able to lock on and will they also get reduced rate calls or will the cell owner get a kickback for routing the call?

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woot

wish i could do this for T-Mobile !!

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Coat

femtocell to femtocell calls

So, if I make a call on my vodafone handset from my femtocell to a friend of mine who is next to his femtocell, I would only have to pay for vodafone setting up the call? After all once the packets are flowing between our two routers they don't need to touch vodafone's infrastructure.

MIne's the one with the skype handset in the pocket.

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Hang on.....

So *we* pay for Vodafone to use *our* broadband bandwidth and electricity so they can *charge* us (and others) to make phone calls and send data over the broadband connection we have already paid for?

This is a wind-up, surely? Nobody would be stupid enough to take this up. Even the minor benefit of 3G coverage is negated by the obvious fact that you must need a fast broadband service to use a Vodafone Access Gateway and may as well use that instead of 3G anyway.

Vodafone Access Gateway, VAG. Well named 'cos the bloke that thought this up must be a bit of a c**t.

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Jobs Halo

O2?

I wish that O2 made Femtocells available to purchase. They had a closed trial last year but I've not heard anything since.

(His Steveness as an iPhone is not much use at my home without a Femtocell)

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Trial

My girlfriend and I were part of the trial that T-Mobile ran (just gave ours back last week).

Took ages to start dialling when calling out, voice qualit was noticably poorer and sometimes wouldn't even connect. I ended up switching my phone to 2G to avoid using it.

Verdict: Definately not worth £160

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Double dipping

So, they charge you £15/mo for the privilege of using the device, then you pay 3G data charges, then you get to pay your ISP for the same data going over *your* network?

I'd only consider this if Vodaphone paid *me* for installing this device. Why I use the bandwidth I paid for to line their pockets - Twice! It's my bandwidth. If they want to use it to let any passing yahoo download pr0n over 3G then they pay me. Not the other way around.

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Femtocells

I think this is an interesting if unexpected development (following on from products such as BT Fusion test product which allowed you to make your broadband connection into a wi-fi BT Openzone, albeit not carrying 3G traffic).

What I think will be really interesting is when the amount of traffic offloaded from the mobile network becomes high enough for Vodafone to offer a free 3G router.

Some data was published a couple of months ago by the Femto Forum which suggested that offloading as little as 1.4Gb of HSPDA data per month could make it worth providing a router for free. This really begins to make sense in high density flats where lots of people are using HSDPA dongles consuming several gigabytes each per month.

Suddenly if you can target these consumers and give one or two a free 3G router and send the data over their broadband connection then you have reduced your need to increase mobile capacity in the area considerable and given the consumers better mobile coverage to boot.

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Go with 3

I pay £15 a month for 15GB of mobile broadband; at my home in wooly-back land it's actually faster than my ADSL connection.

Thumbs down for Vodafone and BT!

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If you've got broadband with that network....

...I can see the point - i.e. if you've got [network carriers broadband], then this makes sense form the network's point of view - in fact, they could start rolling it into the routers they ship out.

but otherwise (with a generic BB provider), it's pointless, I've got wifi for data, and that old fashioned land line thingy for calls!

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Unhappy

Definitely a wind up

If I want to make calls over the Internet I'll use VoIP. Yes, I know dear Vodafone like to stop their phones from supporting it, but it doesn't take long to fix that.

I agree whole hearedly with everyone else in this thread that paying for bandwidth twice is simply not on.

Even my Vodafone supplied Netbook only gets to connect to 3G on the odd ocassion the DSL fails and the Femtocell will be no use whatever then.

Regards

Neil

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Dead Vulture

*I* *think* *not*

Er, no thanks - I'll just make sure my next mobile phone supports VoIP, and I'll connect for free using my own (private, WPA2-encrypted) wireless connection.

Nice try, though!

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Anonymous Coward

As a triallist, I like it

I was invited onto the trial recently - not 6 months ago. As I live in a hole with poor coverage from all networks, this has really made a big difference to our mobile usage in the house. I have had no problems with the service apart from 2 short outages when presumably the Voda gateway was down. I'm hoping they'll let me keep the femtocell box, as there is no way I would pay £160 for it, even for the service improvement we got. If it were cost-competitive with wireless routers, i.e ~£40-50 then that would be a different matter.

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Wait

Some notes are missing from this, the gateway can handle up to 4 devices at a time (depending on what bandwidth you have), when plugged in the first time it will perform bandwidth tests.

As for data, well not all phones have wifi access but the idea of this is that you can still make and recieve phone calls when you are at home (and a lot of buildings have terrible construction that blocks signals), so this is a bonus for those customers that want people to still call them when they are at home or in the sticks (obviously if they have broadband there too).

It's designed to compliment the coverage that they provide, remember when planning permissions are submitted to get masts put up a lot of people reject it and then complain later that they cant make phone calls...

Also the device only works with phones you register yourself (by entering the mobile number on a setup page on the Vodafone website) so it's not like anyone will leech your bandwidth, and as calls go over a GSM connection which is slower connection then even GPRS I can't imagine a voice call taking up huge amounts of bandwidth, can you?

And for those that ask why on earth you want to have one when your phone works at home then its not for you, I can see a lot of people with soho offices at home that could do with one of these.

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Joke

call forwarding??

Yes i know this is a "old technology", but if you need to recive calls at home from your mobile and have a poor signal then set up call forwarding to your landline (which you will most likly have if you have broadband).

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Sprint has this in the US

Sprint is selling the AiRave device which does the same thing on their CDMA network. However the AiRave is priced at US$99, and I believe that there is an additional US$5/mo fee for use. It will support 4 connections, you can limit who can use the connection, and (I think) it supports 3G data, but am not sure (and can't be bothered to go look it up).

The AiRave is *SPECIFICALLY* targeted to customers that have poor reception indoors. While it is generally available at any Sprint store, the main thrust is to those customers that are having problems with signal at home.

Also, be aware that here in the US, there is a growing number of people that do NOT have a wireline telephone at home, but DO have wireline or fiber internet connections. This type of device is set squarely at these people to improve their cellular coverage. And, at $99, it is not that much more than a 802.11n router or other network device, so is seeing virtually no price resistance here.

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B2B Play

Isn't this product more of a B2B play - if a company moves into an office and finds that the network coverage on their network is poor (happens quite frequently) then perhaps a femtocell would be a nice solution. OK so the company could switch networks, but there might be a number of reasons whilst that might not be immediately possible (e.g. contract periods).

In this case the £150 cost and a bit of usage of the internet connection is pretty immaterial

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International

If you went abroad for a long trip, could you take it with you, plug it into a live internet port and then connect to it with no roaming charges and showing up to vodafone's network as in the UK?

I am assuming that would work as one IP must be much the same to another as far as vodafone is concerned. Anyone knowledgeable on whether that scenario would work or not?

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Why use a mobile at home?

Whats baffling me is why on earth people would want to use a mobile either at home or in the office? Surely it's usually much cheaper to use a landline? Maybe voda are hoping all the stuff about mobiles frying the brain is true and thus loads of people won't think twice about buying this unit?

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Financial model?

The financial model fails. If Vodafone want to save money by reducing the load on their core network, they should giving people an *incentive* to use one of these devices, not a deterrent.

For example if the device cost is £100, offer a £100 up front price and £5/month off your contract. If you are a Vodafone fixed-line broadband customer, offer £10/month contract discount. Same if you are a Vodafone mobile broadband customer (assuming you don't have a fixed line Internet connection).

Vodafone will save a lot more than £10/month in upgrade costs.

@MrWeeble

I believe you are correct, Vodafone shouldn't charge you for roaming if you make a call using this device abroad, since roaming agreements would not apply.

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Happy

Re: Asorted replies

Sorry Mr Weeble, when the device connects to the Virtual RNC (Radio Network Controller) it does a lookup on the source IP Address and verifies it's in the UK. If it's outside of the UK the device would be barred.

minusen - The call will still route through the Vodafone network, the only difference is that the cell information held in the HLR will send the call to the virtual RNC which routes it to the Femtocell. Call charges will be the same as ever as the routers never directly connect to each other.

Eponymous Cowherd - What makes you think you would need a fast broadband connection? a call only uses a minute amount of bandwidth, the average broadband connection is around 8mb/s - more than enough to support a good downlink speed via the femtocell.

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RE: Sprint has this in the US

Checking in with the Sprint Advisory Forum members, it appears that the AiRave may use GPS coordinates to prevent an otherwise capable device from being used outside the geographical confines of the US. This is not certain, however: the only known reason for the GPS is to comply with E911 requirements, but the device will not operate if a GPS signal is not received. No one seems to know if this will cause failure outside of the US or, if a GPS signal is received and provides timebase and coordinates, the device will operate outside the US, but not be able to provide emergency services routing (as it's tough for an ambulance from New York to get to a flat in London...)

More as I find it...

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roflmao

Joikuspot is far more useful if you ask me. that way, you ditch the landline and broadband and use your mobile phone as a wifi hotspot to rape Vodafone of all it's 3g goodness. The war is on everyone, make sure you;re not the one paying extra!

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win-win-win

It's not a huge drain on ISPs

End users get the promised but as yet unrealised 3G experience, in their own home

Phones 'just work' without fiddling with battery draining wi-fi

Network operators see more service usage and loyalty / retention

Hardware manufacturers could sell a lot of these boxes

The only thing unappealing is the price, I suppose I can't blame Voda for starting at the top and leaving some room to cut the price. Even if Voda can't make a go of it, I bet the other network operators will soon see the benefits. I can see this being huge.

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Welcome

International, @Dave H 1

I agree with Mr Weeble - calling from overseas with one of these babies would be a pretty good deal - especially given the average roaming charges in the UK. It is fairly straightforward to "get" a UK IP address (reroute it through your laptop which connects to, say, the office VPN).

I would LOVE to have a femtocell to carry around without limitations. WiFi Hotspot calling is even better - because then the phone can use the broadband bandwidth to the max :)

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seen this before

Seen this type of cell system in India, Mumbai about 2 years ago, its great for increasing coverage but over there the incentive was free internet for whoever had one. I think it was Hutchison that was mainly doing it. I personally think its a ripoff for a £160 and no discounts. It might work if they give it away with a broadband package and do a combined unit which is a adsl+router+wireless+cell thinggy in a box.

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purpose

to those saying it's cheaper to use VoIP or even an analog land line - sure, when you are phoning someone else, but when they decide to phone you? if someone asks you for your phone number do you hand them a list of all the places you might be at certain times of the day and the phone numbers for them? personally i just give out my mobile number (except to companies, who normally get an answering machine number)

while £160 is a tad expensive for someone like me, there are people who will happily pay £40+/month for their mobile phone service, so to them it's probably affordable - however i think it's mostly useful for businesses that make extensive use of mobile phones

when the guard band licenses were issued, this is exactly the sort of service they were meant to have been providing - although with extra incentives like cheaper calling etc - the reason those didn't take off is because being separate providers didn't allow the same seamless roaming when you leave the office that a national provider could offer

when will they offer useful services, like letting you plug your PBX in to the base station to use the mobile phone as a local handset while you're in range?

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RE: Sprint has this in the US

Got a final answer - the Sprint GPS is used to disable the unit, not only outside US borders but also in some areas that are verboten to use Sprint inside the country. At least with the Voda unit you might be able to figgle the IP address to something useful...

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FAIL

Cordless phones?

At home my mobile links into a wifi network and i can chat to any of my friends using any number of internet chat programs, via text or voice using an app on the phone. If I want to send a picture, etc, and I can't be bothered to go to my PC, I could still use the wifi on the mobile. Should I want to go as far as the garden to chat to them, I can use the cordless land line phone. Seems little point in paying for this facility to me.

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Happy

great for international consultants!

As was mentioned before:

It's actually a great idea for someone (like myself) who is traveling a lot or is frequently abroad on long term projects.

I am quite certain I am going to get one (providing it works, but I'll cross that bridge when I get there)

I can save massive roaming fees.

As a matter if fact, this thing would be paying for itself within less than two months.

Ok granted, this summer there are no roaming charges, but only if you are logged onto a vodafone network. This way you ensure you always have it available.

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a few random thoughts

I'm pretty sure this femtocell was described as 3G not GSM at the conference yesterday.

A main aim of the product seems to be to provide fast enough 3G download capacity indoors for video streaming to the phone, not just voice. Hence the issue of using the ISP's backhaul for cellular traffic does rear its ugly head. BT's director of devices, mobility and innovation gave a presentation a couple of hours after the Vodafone announcement and commented along the lines of " that's something we'd want to talk to them about" presumably referring to the prospect of cellcos using BT's backhaul for free.

In terms of 'why not just use WiFi' then the issue is that only 10% of phones shipped last year include WiFi, so it isn't that mainstream yet - plus the already mentioned issues with battery life, setup etc.

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@ O2?

Same problem for me as well.

When I bought my iPhone I was guaranteed 100% coverage where I live...NOT the case!

Come on O2 where's my Femtocell!

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Fai

Whatever happened to

UMA? Orange supports this with the blackberries (plus a few of the Samsungs and SEs when internal politics don't stop them from being released in the UK).

It seems to work well (most of the time, when it doesn't bugger up), especially when switching between the no-reception area that is in some parts of London indoors onto wifi and the outside network.

3G to your mobile via your own wifi network - now why aren't more phones and networks doing this?

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I'll buy a few of these

One for home, one for my travel bag (VPN back to the UK so no GeoIP problems) and one or two for the office. Nice.

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@John76

>>one for my travel bag (VPN back to the UK so no GeoIP problems)

Existing femtocells in the USA use GPS to keep track of the femtocell's location, not sure if this is implemented in the Vodafone gear. What happens if you 'accidentally' remove the GPS antenna I don't know...

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Happy

Do I have to upgrade my mobile?!?

So if I have poor coverage, only use my mobile for calls and text and my mobile is not 3G I get to keep 160 quid...? Oh, and poor coverage!

Voda femto (££) + 3G mobile (££) = Happy Voda (££££)!

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Pint

International Roaming Rip-off

(OFcom/Regulators take note): Vodafone pay no land rental, no infrastructure fees, equipment costs, ongoing electricity costs, setup costs, maintenance costs - then Vodafone can charge my flatmate from Spain around £1 a MB to roam on his international data plan and vice versa. Anyone connecting to this network should get reduced data rates to say the least.

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