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back to article Vodafone revs up UK femtocell program

Last June, Vodafone UK became the first European operator to go live with femtocells, though the indoor base stations remained somewhat shadowy in the carrier's portfolio. Now it is bringing them out into the marketing daylight with a rebranding and a price cut. The device, originally called the Vodafone Access Gateway, is now …

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Unhappy

It's that "all Vodafone customers" part....

....that kills this for me

I'd probably be happy to have one, if the 4 mobiles in the house could all use it. But due to contract details and their timing it would not be possible to move all 4 to Vodafone.

Need an open femtocell, able to work with any network (indeed different networks for each attached phone) and then I'd get one.

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FAIL

What, no UMA?

I don't get it.

I get really cruddy mobile reception in my home regardless of network. I have a Vodafone personal mobile and an Orange company Blackberry. The Blackberry on the Orange network supports UMA, so not just data but also calls can route through my home WiFi, over the internet to Orange and they are still able to bill my company for such calls.

I can't do the same thing on Vodafone even if I did have a UMA-enabled handset, so I have to buy some extra stuff from Vodafone. If I do buy this new offering then it only works with my Vodafone mobile so my girlfriend's O2 iPhone still loses out (OK it's not UMA either but the principle stands). Is this some new definition of "customer-driven", courtesy of Vodafone?

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Grenade

Femtocells and Lawful Intercept

How does this work? By law, operators have to let the PoPo eavesdrop on you if they want.

What's to stop Johnny Terrorist from hacking one of these things to provide secure, unfeasible-to-crack, communications? Or from Johnny Perv from recording his neighbours phone calls and texts?

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Anonymous Coward

iPhone indoors

Or alternatively get a 54mbps connection with a router and fall back on to good ol' GSM frequencies for talking.

Gosh - did I just save myself £50 ?

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Flame

All hail the great Iphone

Apparently the ONLY phone with WiFi connectivity, or a touchscreen, or blah blah blah

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Alert

Hmmmm...........

Let me see, I pay you for a high end phone tariff with an overloaded data channel. But if I pay you extra, you'll allow me to move some of my data down an internet connection that I'm paying someone else for.

No thank you I'll wait till you come to your senses and start giving these away because your network is on it's knees.

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FAIL

You forgot...

"Let me see, I pay you for a high end phone tariff with an overloaded data channel. But if I pay you extra, you'll allow me to move some of my data down an internet connection that I'm paying someone else for."

You forgot "and charge me for every byte that I carry over my own connection in my own home"

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"whether they can charge for femtocells"

No mention of the FEE they should be PAYING YOU for the backhaul with YOUR INTERNET SUPPLIER.

In the electricity 'free' market, if you have your own source such as a wind turbine you are legally allowed to sell any spare energy back to the market. Why are the telcos always the ones who steam roller over any rights or fairness in their quest for profit.

I currently PAYG for my mobile broadband, 25 quid for 7gb of data. I can use it how i wish but i am metered on every little bit and it is deducted from my remaining, just how would this work with a femtocell, use up your paid for data allowance on your 3g device while simultaneously using up your fair-usage allowance from your broadband supplier! Oh and you can pay Vodafone again for the privilege (5 quid a month ?).

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Big Brother

Re: Femto and Legal Intercept

Most/all LI systems work from the core network, not the radio. It doesn't matter that you're connected to a femtocell, your call still goes through the network switch.

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Joke

Why do I always misread articles?

I always see "Femtocell" as "Femidom". Didn't help by the abbreviation for the previous name as "VAG..." and the need for "better indoor penetration".

I really should get out more..

But seriously, I think these are very short-lived solutions to a problem that hasn't been found yet. Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN) took these on - outsourced - I really can't see the point yet. Having seen NSN's figures recently, maybe they haven't either

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Pint

Perhaps you saw the original marketing material ...

Some smart fellow was going to call it VAG-in-a-box until they read it properly.

Anonymous for the obvious reason ... coat ready and taxi waiting outside the bar.

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WTF?

really, really don't get it...

What benefit does this give that WiFi in your home cannot?

This device "improves" 3G reception indoors. Which is mobile internet. (I assume it also will carry voice traffic.)

But to benefit from this device I must have or get broadband. Which is plain not-mobile internet.

Why then do I not just buy a very cheap, or indeed ISP-subsidised-to-free, WiFi router? This will give me wireless internet to which my phone can connect. Since the 3G coverage is limited to the range of the femtocell, then it will be no more mobile than normal WiFi.

The only situation I can imagine is where the phone in question is not capable of WiFi but is capable of 3G.

Am I missing something?

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WTF?

Exactly!

So you're at home, and instead of connecting to your hi-speed broadband via wi-fi, you're meant to connect to a slower 3G femtocell which then routes data through your broadband connection...?

And what's to stop your femtocell from allowing Bob next door to route his 3G data through your broadband connection...?

The _only_ benefit I can see of these devices (other than what Richard Black noted about wi-fi-less phones) is if you get free data/calls/texts when using your femtocell.

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Go

@Richard Black

Richard, the point is, it gives you coverage at home to make and receive mobile calls regardless of things Vodafone can't account for, such as the design of your house, thickness of walls, proximity to a cell site, whether or not you have k-glass etc. I have been using one for a while and it's really rather good! Before you knock it, try it!

Go because it's actually a good idea, fairly well executed, which for a company the size of vodafone, doesn't happen often!!

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I've mellowed somewhat on this

I have really poor vodafone reception at home, and actually I'd rather like to have one of these. I would even be prepared to pay £50 to have one. What I'm not prepared to do is to pay twice for the same data transfer.

I see two options - either femtocell usage is excluded from the mobile contract, or it's excluded from the broadband contract. Both ways are fairly easy technically, although might take quite some time to integrate into the various billing systems.

Actually, there is a 3rd even more unlikely way: If my vodafone contract were upgraded to include unlimited usage, that would also suffice.

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Grenade

Mast protests

With all the "Think of the childruuun" protests against phone masts and radiation, what would the great unwashed think about having a 3G base station in their house, albeit a small one?

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Re: Mast protests

The great unwashed believe that big masts are bad but a femtocell is a little box that looks like a DSL router with WLAN so that can't be bad can it, can it?

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Why not get one of these

http://mobilerepeater.co.uk/shop/home.php

Are these the same things? If so they work on most providers and although they cost more (not subsidised) at least they are under your control.

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FAIL

Legality?

Are those "mobile repeaters" legal? I was under the impression that mobile phones operate in a licensed radio band. Vodafone obviously has a license to (part of) that band, so they can run femtocells. But how can some random person set up a "mobile repeater"?

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FAIL

why use a bit of software when we can charge for a box

Oh this is just stupid.

At home I have rubbish cell reception, but I can surf/skype all I want on my phone since I have wifi/broadband.

Therefore all I need is a little bit of SOFTWARE for the phone which enables it to authorize itself in the cell core network using a wifi/broadband link so I can receive incoming calls (rather than the dreaded 'straight to voicemail').

No need for operator locked femtocells, just a wifi password and some software.

But that would be too obvious wouldn't it.

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Does what it says on the box

Where I live reception on all mobile networks is crap. 3G is non-existant.

Have been using a Vodafone Femtocell for about 6 months and it means I don't have to redirect my mobile calls to my land line before i get home (or drive half a mile to do so if I forget). Some small portion of my broadband useage is used for calls but given that I'm on an unlimited (fair use) tariff it doesn't cost me any extra.

There you are a satisfied customer! (Satisfied with the technology that is...not so with Vodafone's customer support).

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Anonymous Coward

Mast protests

Actually more likely to be the great unwashed complaining about their neighbours having a 3G base station

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What is the point?

I can pay Vodafone to have a box that allows my mobile to use their network (for which I must pay Vodafone) and this box will use my broadband connection, for which I already pay someone else. People can then pay Vodafone to call me at mobile rates, I can pay Vodafone to call other people at mobile rates.

OR

I can just allow the mobile to connect to my WLAN and I don't have to pay Vodafone for the box or for using "their" Internet. People can then call me on my landline and I can call other people using my landline - all at less than Vodafone's mobile rates.

Maybe some people have mobiles with OS and applications that are crippled to require 3G connectivity rather than use WLAN: that's what happens when you get a "free" mobile. Just get a mobile without the SIM lock and crappy operator software - it's probably not much more than femtocell anyway.

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Stop

i could use one

I live on a windswept Hebridean island. With thick walls and small windows, I have poor reception - despite having pretty much line of sight to two distant masts. We suffer frequent interruptions in services - power, water, land line, cellphone, transport - usually at this time of year and accompanying the kind of weather that you don't venture out into if it can be avoided.

I can see how having a redundant line line for my mobile could be useful. and I think that a lot of people near me could use it.

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Pint

Simple, Quick, Idiot Proof, thats why......

I have read all the comments for this article and I must say I find them amusing, what I think most people fail to realise is that when it comes to mobile phones, most of Joe public has less braincells than your average chimp, harsh but with my experience a fair assessment, what this does is appeal to plug an play I dont have time to mess around because I have such an important life generation. Yes there are alternatives as " simoncm " pointed out, BUT while even a half tech savvy person could set this up in 2 minutes, Joe public on the other hand really would't have a clue about setting up Skype software on a mobile phone to work over home wifi or public hotspot.

All Vodafone are doing is cashing in on the I WANT IT NOW society we live in.

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Hurry the day

when these price-fixing leeches are just transport.

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Anonymous Coward

Experiences....

OK, so I have one of these.

Why did I want one? The company I work for has all its phones with VF and there is no signal at my house (1 bar max which tends to go to zero as soon as you try to use phone). Forwarding my mobile number to my landline or using Skype etc is not practical.

How do you set it up? Plug it into the mains and into a spare port or your ADSL/Cable router. Set up account on VF website and register the device (serial number, postcode, what floor it is on (!) and a list of the VF numbers to enable). You then wait for a number of hours for it to connect back into the VF network. There is zero indication as to how this is progressing. In my case after 12 hours it had still not connected, a call to VF support resulted in a set of (generic) additional instructions for punching ports through my router. Three hours after doing this it connected (but I have no idea if it was really required but suspect not) and I got a text message to to alert me of this.

Does it work? Yes, I have 5 bars in most of my house. It seems to be binary though, it's 5 bars or nothing and if you are on the borderline you risk the phone handing off to the main network and the call dropping. I need to experiment with this. Data services work fine.

Any Issues?

The main issue I have is the length of time it it takes to connect the first time, I think the VF support line are going to get very busy if this thing takes off. The least they need to do is have a website with configuration settings for common devices (such as mine which is a bog standard BT supplied unit). Quite why the box doesn't publish more details status information via a simple web server is a mystery to me.

Would I recommend it?

If you are tied to VF and have poor/no coverage then £50 is not a huge amount to pay. Yes, perhaps it should be free but I'm sure that would come with conditions and I certainly don't want anyone elses voice traffic going down my broadband line....

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Stop

Misreading?

Reading all the comments it seems that some people just read "it makes your phone download data quicker". These aren't just for using the internet on your phone, for people like me they are for actually making phone calls to start with and when you have lived for a year struggling to get a signal in your house and then when you leave the house you get phone calls from people stating they have been trying to contact you for hours, then you realise why some people actually need these not just want them.

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Paris Hilton

I might just...

I might just... get one to wind up the neighbours - let them worry to death over their childrens health....

not that they mind their children having mobile phones in the first place and regardless of what devices they have in their home or not they are away in a toxic electronic soup or miasma!

Although thye have no x or y, they seem to forget that the radio waves etc to make all this pervasive ever present technology and connections work is sloshing around their heads all day.

Ranging from the Radio & TV Signals, through to any number of other comms signals such as police, ambulance, phones, wi-fi.... between my home and my office my phone typically asks if i want to join anyone of a dozned networks from high street stores, national networks - I am not even safe on the train!

I'd wager my neighbours house isnt yet lined with silver foil or copper weave! (although i do keep suggesting it)

My next project is to convince them that the elctromechanical effects of being in an automobile is killing them slowly (air pollution not withstanding)

Paris, as she is often a wash with....

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Thumb Up

Recently got one (for Free)

Coming to the end of a contract, just moved house, crap reception told VF I am not going to renew because coverage at home was useless. Hey presto, reduced tarrif and free Femtocell.

Easy to set up, easy to use. No worries about eating up 3g allowances and then being charged twice as many people here seem to be saying, I only use it at home for a better MOBILE signal, to send and receive texts, receive work calls etc. If I want to use the internet AT HOME, I tend to get off my arse and fire up a computer.

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FAIL

Free please

At home I use wifi on my HTC HD2, so I don't give a rat's sphincter about improved 3G. But I'd like it if I could get a working GSM signal from their lousy network. I just don't see why I should pay (twice) for the privilege. Maybe if the device was £20.

Plus their advert complains guaranteed perfect signal for everyone; last time I checked broadband isn't available over 100% of the country yet.

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If what I have heard is true...

these things will sell like hotcakes.

I have a friend who is a surveyor/architect. He asked me about these things because he reckons there are many thousands of tradesmen/builders/self-employed who don't have a high-end mobile but who suffer from bad reception at home and need it badly for business.

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Silver badge
FAIL

I must be thick

..but I just don't get the appeal of Femtocells in most scenarios.

I can understand a pub landlord choosing to install one because coverage in his village is a bit crap and maybe it'll encourage people to go there to work - but home and office? What's wrong with having wifi support built in?

Perhaps it's me being out of touch (I have a mobile phone but I only use it for emergencies and switched off 99% of the time) - are some people these days really that tied to their phone? So tied to it then when at home they have no other way to do what they want? And at the office?

And yeah - are they /charging/ for the data transfer over a femtocell?

The only people I can see benefitting from this are the operators who get their networks extended for free and from the sound of it actually charge someone for using someone else' network connection.

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Oh dear...

These things have been great for us over the last year, however, the box is down today. Sold too many and not got the infrastructure to hold it up? Where have I seen that before :)

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Alternative: DECT mode built-in a mobile for use with landline base-station

A good alternative might be for a handset manufacturer to build-in DECT into a mobile so it can be used to make landline calls directly through an ordinary DECT base station that connects to the landline - and then reception is not an issue and not dependent on operator.

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I'm amazed nobody has thought of this...

We have several hundred Blackberry users on Vodafone, who frequently travel to our other offices abroad. If we had a femtocell at each foreign site, connecting over our VPN back to a UK internet connection, they'd have no roaming charges.

Sounds like a bargain for fifty quid!

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Stop

Sorry!

As I understand the devices feature some methods so that they can figure out their location, assisted GPS and hunting for any adjacent signals. Because of this they should only work in the place where you have said they will be working.

The problem is that the phone company doesn't have a license to operate outside of the area they market to. Additionally, in putting a Femto Cell in a remote office you begin running the risk of a visit from the local communications authorities and I know some countries where one wouldn't wish to push your luck.

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... I think they have

I doubt Vodafone would overlook the possibility that someone might try to squeeze their lucrative roaming charges with a Femto box. I doubt that these boxes would work outside the UK ...

... at least if they are using a UK SIM and the UK network as home.

I think you need to find another solution, like trash all of your Blackberry devices and use something that can support push email over cheap WiFi. But of course you wouldn't do that because you're all addicted to email and have to switch your phones on as soon as the plane touches the ground, and Blackberries are soooooo cool.

BTW, Blackberries and iFones (in the Vodafone style) are the main reason operators need something like Femto to get rid of all of those annoying devices that use up all of the radio resources by pinging a server every couple of minutes. You can get an app for just about anything, except for efficient RRM. Obviously designed by people who think radio is something you switch on in the car to listen to music when your iPod runs out of battery.

There's an idea - free Sure SIgnal with every iFone contract!

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@ Bob H and Dino Saur

If the femtocell is deep inside a building - which is where the normal signal is weakest anyway - it might have trouble finding a GPS signal or other operators' towers.

It would be a major design flaw if a product like this failed to work when it can't see a UK operator's tower - isn't that the only reason why you'd buy it?!

Obviously I am aware of (and I agree) about the licensing issues and won't be trying this myself but you can bet that someone will.

Oh and (ignoring the obvious attempt to flame) BlackBerries *can* receive email over Wifi.

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