Mobile
Commentary
1/26/2009
04:09 PM
Eric Ogren
Eric Ogren
Commentary
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New Femtocell From Verizon Wireless Falls Short

Verizon Wireless officially introduced a femtocell product to enhance in-office or in-home coverage for cellular voice service. The big problem is, it doesn't offer any sort of boost for 3G data services.

Verizon Wireless officially introduced a femtocell product to enhance in-office or in-home coverage for cellular voice service. The big problem is, it doesn't offer any sort of boost for 3G data services.Cellular networks don't always work well indoors. Cellular networks also aren't everywhere (yet). That means some people have poor, little, or no coverage, even in their own homes. If you have no or poor cellular service inside your home, your may be forced to keep an analog phone line so you can make/receive calls from home.

To combat this issue, wireless network operators are offering solutions such as femtocells. Femtocells are essentially miniature cell towers for your home. The devices themselves look and act like Wi-Fi routers. They plug into your office's or home's broadband connection, and use the broadband service to connect to the network rather than a local cell tower. Most femotcells on the market can blanket about 5,000 square feet with cellular coverage, which should do the trick for most homes and some small offices. This means you will always be able to make/receive cellular calls from home, no matter how poor the macro network coverage is.

Verizon's Network Extender costs $250, and using it at home is free. When making calls through the Network Extender, you'll get unlimited nationwide calling with no extra fees.

At first glance, it sounds like a win-win. The user sees better coverage and performance, and the carrier gets to offload some traffic from its cellular network, which leaves it better able to handle other customers.

But what about data? Data is a no-go with Verizon's Network Extender. The femtocell only enhances voice coverage. It doesn't do anything for wireless data services. That means any service that uses Verizon's EV-DO network won't see improved coverage. No speedy wireless browsing on the mobile Web, and no V CAST music, video, or other download services. It also doesn't work with Verizon's GPS-based apps and services.

From my perspective, this is an incomplete solution that only does half of what it is supposed to do. Is it great to provide for better in-home voice service? You betcha. But it also should include data, especially considering the growing importance of wireless data to many users.

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