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7/31/2008
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Sprint Rolls Out 'Airave' Cell Phone Signal Booster

The company's femtocell hardware offers enhanced cell phone coverage and unlimited home calling for $10 a month.

Sprint is rolling out hardware that enhances cellular coverage in the home or office and offers another option to ditch a traditional landline.

The Airave, made by Samsung, is essentially a mini-cell phone tower. The femtocell connects to Sprint's network via a user's broadband network and creates a smaller cell phone network, up to 5,000 square feet, within the user's home or business.

Up to three different cell phones can use the mini-network simultaneously, and users can switch from the Airave to Sprint's network without losing a call. The Airave will require a $4.99 monthly service fee, but customers with the carrier's Simply Everything plan will be able to make unlimited in-house calls.

Users without an unlimited voice plan can pay a $10 monthly fee for unlimited home calls, but there is a slight catch. While subscribers won't be charged for calls originating from the Airave network, moving to a Sprint tower will change the rate plan from unlimited to whatever the subscriber has.

Switching from a Sprint tower to the femtocell will not change the plan to unlimited, the company said.

"People want ubiquitous cell service on their wireless phones everywhere they go, and that includes their home and offices," said Tom Jasny, Samsung Mobile's VP of wireless systems and broadband, in a statement. "The Airave makes it even easier to get enhanced coverage, no matter where you live or work."

Sprint tested the Airave in Denver and Indianapolis last year, and the femtocell will be available nationwide Aug. 17 for $99.99.

Sprint is the latest mobile operator to enter the household and challenge traditional landlines. Last month, T-Mobile unveiled its @Home service, which also offers existing subscribers unlimited home calling for $10 a month.

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