Australia's biggest network operator has rejected the business model behind domestic femtocells, claiming the technology is already redundant, though not everyone agrees. Speaking at Mobile World Congress, Telstra's CTO Hugh Bradlow explained that the basic premise of modern femtocells – offloading data traffic from the operator …
Poor voice signal
Is usually the reason for installing a femto. It makes much more sense for operators to use femtos rather than built new stations in remote areas.
That would be true but for one fact ...
... in remote areas DSL is as rare as the proverbial. Handing out femtos to people in remote areas will have zero effect on coverage, or offload if anybody cares.
ADSL for speeds over 2Mbps has a range of roughly 5 km of line length, which often is a much shorter linear distance, as the lines tend to wander. Normally femtos require at least 1 Mbps DSL to work (if you believe the advertising), but don't try downloading any big files while on a call.
In comparison, a decently designed cell site can have a range of 10 km or more linear distance from the cell site for the same data speed. (Some companies claim 2 Mbps at cell ranges exceeding 30 km with special designs). I suppose you could backhaul your femto over a 3G link with an external antenna if you really tried. But for voice coverage, you get the full cell range ("full" allowing for indoor penetration loss) in any case.
So how do femtos solve anything apart from woeful 3G coverage in cities?
Phones and tablets can only access domestic WiFi if they've been set up. Most ordinary folks can't be a&&&d or don't know how to put their router details into their device anyway.
And a lot of low-end smart-ish phones don't have Wifi. Not everybody owns an iPhone (whodathunk!).
"Cisco reckons that a once a customer is consuming more than 1.6GB of data in a month, it becomes economical for the operator to give them a free femtocell."
I don't think that's the case for most operators, who are no longer offering unlimited data plans. I would argue the exact opposite due to the extra revenue that data usage is generating.
Telco business model was to prevent WiFi - failed
WiFi on mobile phones was not liked by the UK telcos - they either disabled it on phones that were built with it, or locked it off in their proprietary or customised operating system.
To protect their revenue of course.
That was the telco business model, that would wither once more phones were available with WiFi. Mine's an Android bought for just under 90GBP (Orange San Francisco)
There is an actual need for a Femtocell that becomes apparent with 3G, because phones using 3G do not work well enough most of the time indoors. Compared to 2G signals that generally do work well enough indoors.
But in particular what's happened recently is that Android phones are set to default to WiFi for data if the signal is available, rather than use 3G/2G that is still on for the phoning use. So Android phones don't need a Femtocell in the home, and it seems as a result UK telcos have stopped disabling/prohibiting WiFi on other phones.
But it is not a bad idea to have a Femtocell for home use if you have a poor 3G signal inside the home - for some facilities that are only available on the telco 3G service.
So this business of femtos and data offload, how does it work?
One major problem with the whole idea of femtos and offload is that they're not really designed for it. Since the leading application is coverage extension (in city basement flats for example), femtos are designed to be mini basestations. That means they prioritise voice connections.
So, if a Vodafone SureSignal supports four active users, you don't have much chance of a data connection if you live with, for example, three daughters and a wife. (Cue remarks about sexism and ignore empirical evidence of rather large phone bills.)
And since you are reliant on your DSL connection (and all of its evil fair usage policies), you might have a problem if your son is streaming video while you are trying to use your femto for your own video streaming. (Not to mention the BW consuming IP security packing that femtos use to talk back to the network.)
Fine if you're the only one in the house - download your pron all you like. But wouldn't you like to see it on the large screen you've connected to your PC rather than the small handheld screen on your smartphone?
I'm yet to be convinced, as you might have guessed. Let's not even talk about the outdoor hotspot femtos recently mentioned in the trade press.
Love femtocells, hate the name
My iPhone might as well have been a 3G iPod Touch.
For fifty quid my Vodafone SureSignal means I can make/receive calls when at home.
Simple problem, simple solution. And highly recommended.
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