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back to article Vodafone Access Gateway 3G

The fuss surrounding femtocells is hard to avoid, analyst Berg Insight reckons 70 million of the things will be in use by 2014, but Vodafone's Access Gateway is the first femto product to hit the UK. It’s essentially an access point base station for mobiles, so if you want Vodafone coverage where there is none, then it's hard to …

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Data use

"...more likely you'll hit Vodafone's limit when using the 3G dongle built into your laptop"

You'd have hoped that the unit could recognise data connections and route them straight out the braodband pipe rather the via Vodafone's VPN. I presume from this comment that this isn't the case?

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FAIL

Erm right

So Voda want us to use our Broadband/Electricty/Space for them to expand there network....

Then bill us for it lol.

Wonder whos dumb enough to take up this offer..

on the plus side you could use it to use them radio waves to warm up your bacon sarnie...

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I spy a whole new use for this.......

Whats to stop you flogging these femtocells to expats- who will programme them as UK or Irish femtocells- and proceed to use their UK/Irish mobiles in Portugal/Spain/Cyprus (where-ever) to make calls home using a local UK/Irish tariff?

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FAIL

Outrageous!

"no discount on calls made over your femtocell, and data usage counts against your fair-use cap in the usual way"

At the LEAST, data routed through the femtocell should be exempt from the "f-u too" cap, upstream data backhaul isn't my problem.

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Or...

...you could just use a WiFi access point and use your mobile to make SIP calls over that, like some of us have been doing for years. Another case of re-inventing the wheel, surely. Of course, if Apple marketed it, everybody would think it's something new and really clever that had never been done before.

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I think I'll pass

I think I'll pass on this to be honest. I have patchy Vodafone 3G reception in my area, but I only have a Vodafone 3G modem (my mobile is on Three, also with poor 3G reception).

As much as I like the idea of these things, I certainly wouldn't want to pay £160 or so for one, then not have a discount on calls and data.

As it is, I dare say it won't be that popular. Offer a discount on calls and cut the price, then I'd be more interested. In the mean time I'll continue to use the wifi on my phone and notebook when I'm home.

Rob

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WTF?

Google Voice

Seems to me that you have this choice:

1. Pay £160 or £15/month to use your cellphone somewhere in range of your broadband connection, for which you're already paying.

2. Get a free Google Voice account, and then use that to make calls from your computer that look exactly as if you were talking on your cellphone to the person at the other end of the call.

Hmmm, no-brainer.

I guess the interesting thing will be when somebody links up a 3G card on (say) Orange, uses it to provide an ad-hoc wireless broadband connection to a local PC, and then connects one of these jobbies to it, so effectively providing Vodafone cellphone coverage using Orange's 3G network.

:)

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Unhappy

Nice idea

It's just a shame that they so often don't work!

I've got one at home and one in my office and frequently have to turn the thing off to actually have a working mobile. The Vodafone forums have quite a few similar comments so mine isn't an isolated case.

Just this morning I turned on my Blackberry and had a nice full strength 3G signal but I couldn't make/receive calls or emails. Vodafone tell me to 'turn it off and on again' which is hardly ideal.

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Coat

Not strictly double paying??

I must admit, I'm not 100% certain how the femtocell works for data traffic but I would have thought the femotcell device creates a tunnel back to vodafone and that the data/internet access breaks out from their. If this is the case, then you would be using vodafone's bandwidth (as well as your own) and hence it would make sense that the data traffic is allocated from your fair-use allowance. If a tunnel is not created and the internet access broke out from your own broadband directly to the internet, then I do not see how they would know how much data you have used. Just a thought.

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Anonymous Coward

Leeching?

I like the tech here, and of course people can moan about how there should be blanket network coverage anyway yada yada. However, I'm a bit bothered by the fact that this device effectively leeches off your broadband connection and STILL measures any data usage against your 3G cap! Am I missing something here?

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WTF?

Blatant rip off

So, instead of using the 3g network that you have paid for, you just use your own internet connection for data and it still comes out of your bundle.

And it costs £15 a month?

And this is for real?

And they do realise that most 3g phones have built in wireless?

Please, forgive me if I don't cut my own arm off...

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Bronze badge

Another advert for these things?

If I have broadband but not Vodafone, I will either use the phone line associated with the broadband (maybe with a DECT extender) or a VoIP service. Either of these offer cheaper calls than cellular operators like Vodafone. If I need to receive incoming mobile calls, I could use a divert but I am more likely to give people a landline number, which will be cheaper for them to call than a mobile number. Why on earth would I pay Vodafone to provide coverage for me to use their service (at cost) using broadband access that I already paid for? If Vodafone offered the box for free and substantially cheaper rates (i.e. landline rates) for calls made by registered phones over the femtocell, I might be interested.

Currently, I use a Nokia E51 with Sipgate over WLAN - it works just fine and is a nice way of avoiding roaming charges when abroad.

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And if Broadband is poor?

Our broadband connection is very poor, about a similar standard to an old 56k modem. I also have an iPhone without any O2 signal whatsoever, a real triumph of style over substance.

Vodafone signal is not too bad, if you keep still.

We've no gas either.....

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Stop

Femtos? Where's the market?

Handover from the macro network to femtocell was never going to happen as the macro NodeB doesn't know about the femto.

So what exactly is the market for femtocells? People who live in caves, ie don’t have acceptable voice coverage? Well there aren’t many of them!

People with dongles wanting data access? If the femto is connected to a broadband line, why on earth would anyone choose to use the 3G protocol stack instead of Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi is the right technology for wireless distribution in a building, not UMTS.

A femtocell for free and discounted calls? How does that work when femtocell hardware costs as much as a handset, especially when considering the additional hardware needed in the network to aggregate thousands of them and the inevitable calls to customer services. There are quality issues as well, Vodafone's customer experience becomes dependent on a 3rd party's provision of backhaul transmission. This might be rubbish and therefore reflect badly on Vodafone.

For voice, the 2G and 3G network’s coverage is good enough. For high speed data, Wi-Fi is a better technology than femtocells.

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Too limiting and too expensive

Orange have been playing with femtocell technology in their labs in Issy Les Moulineaux France for around 2 years but when I went into an Orange shop last month and asked what they were doing about it, I may as well have asked in Martian. The salesman looked at me as if I'd just fallen out of a pram. The manager of the Vodafone shop in the same street knew just what I was talking about and confirmed what I expected. Firstly this device is expensive; secondly it is only for use with a small number of registered handsets; and thirdly, it can only be used on the Vodafone network.

Like many people I live in an area where mobile coverage is a hope for the 23rd century, not a reality in this one. BT are quietly pulling phone boxes out of rural and country areas and apart from landlines, there is no mobile phone coverage in huge swathes of Wales and Scotland. What a great sales opportunity for some enterprising mobile phone operator wouldn't you think?

If Vodafone used their little grey cells as well as their little femtocells, they could install femtocells in lots of currently dead areas - all they need are three things:

A broadband connection of more than 1MB/sec

A power supply

A more open approach to the femtocell client to make them Voda friendly (not just for 4 phones)

These femtocells could be installed in pubs, shops, post offices, just about anywhere - not a complete solution to dead areas, more reminiscent of the old Rabbit system, but it would put Vodafone way ahead of the competiton, at least until they learn to spell the word "femtocell".

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Unregistered handsets?

So what happens to the unregistered handset when it comes near the femtocell? Is it not served? Does it mean that if this femto cell is installed in the place with existing macro coverage, unregistered handsets are actually worse off, because the femto will wipe out the weak signal from the macro cell and the handset will be left cold in the waters?

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Obvious extention

Realistically this is not how people will want to use this technology.

Whilst most areas of Blighty covered in smog have reasonable access to operator networks, the far greater areas of countryside are mostly served by that sort of coverage that requires standing in a particular part of the garden, or leaning out of a window and have no effective data coverage.

This means that certain technophiles will constitute the first wave along with a few businesses who genuinely need the product, but the second wave will be those businesses that need more flexibility - pubs, hotels etc. These people will buy the one fits all wifi, and network extender that covers all the major carriers and hands off the calls to the networks. These people won't be in the slightest bit interested in one that only handles one network and requires monthly top ups.

These will be carrier independent and have far fewer pointless restrictions.

Interestingly back in the days when Orange was a flexible company (about 10 years ago) you used to be able to pay about £200 for a box you could fix to the side of your building to improve signal around the area. The was effectively an network extender and didn't require any further maintenance on your part (apart from possibly feeding it some electricity).

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Welcome

hang on..

If your out in the stix with no mobile signal what are the odds your going to have a half decent net connection. Kind off a big maybe

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Catch 22?

If you need a VAG, then you probably won't have good enough broadband to *have* a VAG.

About the only real use (enough to justify the £160 outlay) would be to provide fast data access to 3G handsets that *don't* have WiFi. Even then its probably going to be cheaper to change handset.

A solution looking for a problem, IMHO.

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Re: Obvious extention

Hmm, been at the telco kool-aid have we? Just 'cos they colour a bit of the map with the hue that means 100% coverage, doesn't mean you can actually get a signal in all of it.

I used to live in an area which was one of the smog-covered bits you're referring to. I ended up dumping the company mobile (Orange) as standing on a ladder at the end of the garden to use the thing wasn't filling me with joy.

Orange's response every time we raised this (several times, I was doing on-call support and the helpdesk drones objected to resorting to landlines) was to peddle the mantra that they had full coverage in the Greater London area. A platitude that was demonstrably a vile damned pile of complete porkies.

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Go

Where's the T-Mobile one

I wish T-Mobile would launch one on there network - I live in one of our core cities urban areas (i.e. Nottingham) and get just enough signal indoors for the phone to ring, but not enough to maintain a conversation, and standing outside in the cold and wet to make a voice call is not fun! (and switching to another network is not an option - only T-Mobile and Three appear on a network scan, but all the networks appear when in the garden - T-Mobile annoyingly with 5bars and HSDPA!)

Being inside Nottingham's urban area means I get decent ASDL coverage (18mbps from Be*) though so could easily use that for piggy backing on - Indeed I conserve the battery life on the phone by using WiFi and letting the RSS, Podcasts, and ActiveSync connections run over Wifi!

Not that Wifi is a brilliant solution as coverage inside is rather patchy.

Then again, perhaps a Femtocell with the ability to connect to an external UMTS aerial would be a better solution for many on the edge of network coverage! (i.e. uses the Mobile network rather than ADSL)

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Boffin

@Pav Lucistnik

"Does it mean that if this femto cell is installed in the place with existing macro coverage, unregistered handsets are actually worse off, because the femto will wipe out the weak signal from the macro cell and the handset will be left cold in the waters?"

This is a distinct possibility if the femtos are not located ideally, the link below outlines the potential femto 'dead zone' for example :-

http://www.mobilehandsetdesignline.com/howto/206902713

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It all seems so good on paper

I don't get it.

Maybe I'm too old so don't need a mobile clutched in my hand 24/7, have no desire to look like Uhura on the way to an SF convention, nor be mistaken for one of the people who talk to themselves and own invisible dogs in Camden.

Surely nearly everyone with broadband also has a landline ?

Why would anyone with a broadband connection want to get data via a mobile network when there's Wi-Fi ?

Why would anyone think paying for a service that's already been paid for but not delivered is a good idea ?

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Alert

A few corrections & comments

Alert as several people have missed important facts

First, it isn't £15 a month extra monthly bill. It never was.

It is free, thrown in as a bundle with a lot of new contracts. Or you can pay £160 up-front, or you can pay £120 spread over a 12 or 24 month contract eg £5/month. (I know... its usually "discount for cash" not a premium but there you go).

Or if you are a high-value customer you get one for free just for asking. Go on... see how much they love you.

The box can't travel or be used for cheap roaming. They have to track the location, not least because you could take it on holiday to a place Voda doesn't have license & isn't allowed to transmit (eg USA on different frequency).

There are some weird regulatory issues which why data traffic can't just go direct from your router to the Internet but must go via their core: lawful intercept, RIPA or the way the cellular carriers try to block teens from accessing porn. Legally they are the 3G service provider to your smartphone so they have to be able to monitor the traffic. Dumb maybe ("what about WiFi then...?"), but blame lawyers/politicians rather than Voda.

Finally, people who complain about the cost or having to pay for it.... So don't buy one. Very easy.

I object to paying £££ to Sky so I get the privilege to watch programs with ads in that other people paid for. So I don't pay for Sky.

At least Voda offer the choice: would you prefer they charged every subscriber extra tax to build a network to deliver service to the people who can't get coverage...??

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Femto's are a key part of future strategy for mobile operators

I've had a Voda femto since July. I consider I'm actually part of a Beta test ( i.e. sort of internal pre release to market test to identify problems and fix them) because there are many outages - once or twice a week. When the system stops working all the lights on the femto say 'I'm working' but you can't make or receive calls - even though you phone shows all the signal bars. So you miss calls and you don't know you're missing them - until you try to make one !

Voda's Gateway was clearly rushed to market - the sign on process when I signed up was all but manual - whatever you entered on the sign up web page was manually taken off by a human and re-entered into a different system as the software that did it automatically was six weeks ago ( that's what they told me when I rang in to report my first problem - I don't bother now

There are many issues to solve both technically and commercially - but I'm convinced that femto's will become a key part of the LTE landscape. I too raised my eyebrows at paying to extend Voda's coverage into my home ( I'm out in the boonies - usable signal only if you put one arm in the air, it's raining and there's an 'R' in the month ! ) but not much in the way of alternatives.

If you think about it the operator is stepping outside their fully controlled and managed network to one where the end to end performance relies on somebody elses internet connection - try running speedtest.net on your broadband at 7pm and see how that all but grinds to a halt and the ping time allows you to make a cup ot tea !

It will be interesting to see how all of this pans out - like many operators mobile telcos would love to have their hub at the centre of your & mine homes.

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Paying Twice

I guess ofcom will just rollover on this? The networks are effectivly saying "we can't be arsed to provide a complete service, but we wont mention that when we flog you a locked handset on a overpriced tarrif. But if you've got problems with reception pay us some more money and you can fix it yourself. By the way we do a great unlimited 1gb broadband deal..."

This boxes would great if they were network unlocked, then I could see a purpose. Business and public locations (hotels/pubs) could get one and improve everyones cell coverage.

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Boffin

Broadband in the stix..

Hmmm. Don't assume that people that live in rural areas with NO mobile coverage from any network (big granite hills do tend to block signals for some reason....) don't get decent broadband - we don't have any signal, but live less than a mile away from the local exchange and get a decent 6.5M connection. Now, if you want my business mr vodafone (or any other company) you'll discount the calls I make using the femtocell (remember, the telco will still have to pay termination fees to the ongoing network)

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Choice

I agree - at least Voda is offering a choice.

I live in an area where coverage is poor and yes i have wifi and a landline, however I would like to receive calls on my mobile without having to divert it everyday when I get home. I believe that there is a market for femtocells. I understand everyones views about why should we have to pay for the service but for me i would be happy to pay to have some sort of coverage.

On the point about building their network i know that many operators have tried to improve coverage in my area but they have all been denied permission.

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