As wireless data traffic grows, many operators have started deploying femtocells for their 2G and 3G networks. Others are incorporating femtocells and in-building coverage solutions into their 4G network plans.
Last month AT&T made its first foray into the femtocell arena by offering a 3G Microcell femtocell for $150 with a $100 rebate if customers sign up for a monthly $20 plan that offers unlimited calling for subscribers within the femtocell's range. And in July Sprint Nextel inked a deal with Airvana for 3G CDMA femtocells. Sprint currently offers CDMA femtocells from Samsung, which are designed to boost voice coverage in homes. The new Airvana femtocell will boost data speeds.
Of course, many femtocell makers believe femtocells are necessary for capacity and coverage, but most agree that the business case for femtocells is far from clear. Consumers don't understand why they should pay $100 or more for a device that will help the carrier improve its coverage--something they think the carrier already should be providing.
And the message falls particularly flat for operators that have built multimillion dollar ad campaigns touting their superior network and network coverage.
Nevertheless, the Femto Forum is pushing ahead with interoperability testing to make sure that femtocells from different vendors work together. The association's first femto plug fest with UMTS-based femtocells will be in March 2010.
Simon Saunders, chairman of the Femto Forum, as well as executives from Airvana and Sprint will be speaking on the "Femtocell and In-Building Coverage" panel at 11:15 a.m. EST on Oct. 28. Click here to register.