Netgear promises 3G femtocells by end of year
Still hedging bets with Wi-Fi included, too
Netgear has announced it will be using technology from Ubiquisys to embed 3G femtocells into a home gateway product by the end of the year, though the box will also have Wi-Fi; in addition to being a DSL modem and VoIP router.
Femtocells promise to spread 3G connectivity into homes, allowing your 3G handset to connect to your own local cell and have calls routed over your ADSL line, when you're at home; but that's only the beginning of what they can offer.
The femtocell also connects to the home network, enabling content on the phone to be streamed to devices around the home, such as TVs and stereo systems, as well as giving the user access to all the normal 3G services at up to 7.2Mb/sec (assuming their handset supports HSDPA).
Wide scale deployment of femtocells has the potential to make Wi-Fi networks redundant: why use a power-hungry, short-range, technology when the addition of a femtocell provides all the same functionality without the drawbacks?
Of course, such technology will only be available from network operators; they own the licences covering the frequencies that 3G operates in, and network operators are surprisingly conservative when it comes to new technologies, not to mention business models.
This announcement from Netgear puts the femtocell firmly in the consumer-electronics bracket and presents a real opportunity for network operators to unbalance the dominance of Wi-Fi. But if they have the nerve to take advantage of that opportunity remains to be seen.®
Not Wifi replacement
Having read the article and the corresponding item on the Ubq website, it seems clear the aim is not to replace Wifi but to give the home user an integrated femtocell along with their broadband box, thus expanding the home network to include mobiles - and discourage you from using Skype etc. since you continue to use your mobile out of convenience !
Plus I can guess the operators would want to give cheap calls / texts if made through the femtocell, with other flashy features, to discourage people from being "tariff tarts" and swapping operators each time a new deal came out.
I can imagine the technology being useful for prison establishments so that all "illegal" mobile calls would be registered and channelled through the prison's own "base stations" !
nobbleware anyone ?
"... why use a power-hungry, short-range, technology when the addition of a femtocell provides all the same functionality without the drawbacks?"
Err WHAT ?
You mean "why use a medium range, high speed, open, cheap technology when you can use a short range, vendor controlled, low speed connection instead ?" The fact is that these femtocells will be short range because of their low power - I suspect that they will have no more range that a half decent WiFi access point. The user will not be able to fiddle with them as they will be well and truly knobbled by the vendors*, and it's a MUCH lower speed.
So apart from enabling ones phone to actually work at home, I see b***er all benefit for them - especially considering how nobbled and featureless they'll be !
What is REALLY needed for these to work well is for these femtocells to be available for private use (ie not controlled by one of the mobile network operators). Think of the opportunities if you can set up your own femto-mobile-network and use cheap commodity mobile phones as in-premises cordless phones. If it could be arranged to roam onto public networks when required then that would be a bigger bonus !
* Seen what the likes of BT do to otherwise open and functional hardware when they stick their nobbleware on it ?
With the phone companies coming out with such pathetic data tarrifs, I'd want to be absolutely certain that my phone doesn't silently swap back to the big 3g network while browsing at home!
I expect there will be lots of people ranting about unexpected huge bills when this hits the high street!