Femtocells: the Race is On

by Howard Wilcox of Juniper Research

Yes, folks, the 3G femtocell grands prix is well and truly go! Several of the world’s leading mobile operators either have made or about to make service announcements.

Vodafone has announced its Vodafone Access Gateway, SoftBank has launched, AT&T’s 3G Microcell is expected this year, and Sprint and many more operators are moving ahead to translate their trials into commercial launches.  Sprint and Verizon Wireless already operate femtocell services that are essentially 2G.

Vodafone’s service offer is based around improved in-building coverage: “Get a great signal at home – without leaning out of the window – thanks to the Vodafone Access Gateway.”

Regular readers of this blog may remember that in my last post I concluded: “All I’ll need then is an attractive tariff from my mobile operator, and some compelling new services and benefits that will make subscribing to the femtocell service irresistible!”

Well, Vodafone are offering a range of price options, from free or as part of an inclusive price plan from £15 a month. It is also available as a one off purchase for £160 or a monthly charge from £5.

No big fanfare about exciting and innovative services as yet though. Like the Facebook virtual fridge note (that one was for you again, Andy!).

But hey – one step at a time. Let’s get the services going first (and fix any glitches), let’s get the users educated (kind of important), then we’ll start to bring in the new services. This seems to be Vodafone’s approach – measured and sensible in my humble opinion.

After all, there are several ways that femtocell service traction could develop over the next few years.

I do think though that for femtocells to develop amongst the public at large, we’ll need to see some catchy brand names to capture the imagination. There are so many mobile offers and campaigns that you need a Wow Factor. I’m not convinced we’re there yet, but maybe the catchy names will come with the innovative services.

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Femtocells: the Race is On