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Vodafone tries again with femtocell proposal
|20 января 2010|
Just days after launching the iPhone in the UK market, mobile operator Vodafone has revisited an initiative to get mobile data off its macro network and onto the fixed line pipes.
This week, the UK operator renamed its femtocell offering, reinforcing speculation that the concept is difficult to market to consumers. The new name is Vodafone Sure Signal, which is certainly friendlier than Vodafone Access Gateway.
In a nutshell, a femtocell is a small device that plugs into a broadband line and improves indoor mobile coverage by boosting the signal. But it also has the added benefit, for operators at least, of moving that voice and data traffic off the cellular network and onto the fixed line network, which in many cases is provided by another operator entirely.
This is an interesting operator strategy and one that is likely to become more popular as mobile networks become increasingly congested with traffic from data hungry smartphones and dongles.
On January 14 Vodafone began selling the iPhone in the UK, making it the third carrier out of the big five to offer the device. Like Orange, Vodafone will be limiting users’ cellular data allowance to 1GB per month, which the company reckons is more than enough. Tethering options are available at £5 for 500MB, £10 for 1.5GB or £15 for 3GB.
Vodafone was the first European carrier to make femtocells available in July 2009 under the name of the Access Gateway, at which time Mike Roberts, principal analyst for Informa Telecoms & Media, noted the move as a showing of support for the femtocell concept. “This is huge for the femtocell industry. A launch by a major operator in tough economic times shows they’re convinced there’s a strong business case for femtocells, initially for providing better voice and data coverage in homes, with more advanced applications and services to come,” he said.
The newly rebranded Sure Signal costs £50 in a one off charge, or £5 a month for 12 months on price plans of £25 or more; or £120 in a one off cost, or £5 a month for 24 months on price plans of less than £25, making it only available to contract customers. The devices are probably quite heavily subsidised but it remains to be seen if consumers will bite at these prices. Still, it’s in the operator’s best interests if they can effectively shift some of their traffic onto another provider’s network with no associated cost.