Feeds

Vodafone revs up UK femtocell program

Sure Signal sexier than Access Gateway

Security for virtualized datacentres

Last June, Vodafone UK became the first European operator to go live with femtocells, though the indoor base stations remained somewhat shadowy in the carrier's portfolio. Now it is bringing them out into the marketing daylight with a rebranding and a price cut.

The device, originally called the Vodafone Access Gateway, is now more snappily named the Sure Signal. This reflects the initial focus of the cellco's marketing of the product, the promise of improved indoor 3G coverage and signal quality. Mobile operators are looking for many benefits from their femtocell investments - some consumer driven, such as new apps and homezone tariffs; some geared to their own economics, such as offload of traffic from the macro networks to devices backhauled by the user's own broadband lines.

But in the first stage, as successfully demonstrated by the US carriers, the most readily understood, and urgently needed, benefit is indoor penetration. In October, a survey of UK mobile users by ADC found that 27.6 per cent of respondents believed their work had suffered because of weak cellphone reception indoors at home or the office.

The Sure Signal will now be promoted and sold more aggressively, said one Vodafone insider, and the pricing has been made keener to match. It will now cost just £50 ($81), down from £160. Consumers can also opt to pay £5 a month for a year to get the femtocell, if they are on contracts of more than £25 a month; or for two years if their deals are worth less than that.

One of the dilemmas for carriers is whether they can charge for femtocells, or need to offer them 100 per cent subsidized in order to boost uptake and gain the benefits of data offload. So far Vodafone is pursuing something of a middle road, despite complaints from some consumers that they should not have to pay to compensate for an operator's poor coverage.

Various reasons can be deduced for the timing of the stepped-up push behind the femtocell. Vodafone has managed to convert its back office system to allow for automatic provisioning of the devices - seen by other early adopters, such as AT&T, as an essential condition for volume adoption. Its supplier SFR is understood to have ramped up its manufacturing output considerably this quarter.

And of course, Vodafone UK launched the iPhone last week - the handset has famously put strain on the network of its previously exclusive UK carrier, O2, and femtocells will be one way to ensure data-centric smartphone customers get a high quality experience, indoors at least.

"No other network in the UK can ensure a great mobile phone signal in the home, because the Sure Signal is unique to Vodafone," said the operator's UK CEO Guy Laurence. "Customers tell us it is life-changing."

The Sure Signal offers download speeds of at least 1Mbps, connects to any broadband line, and can be registered with up to 32 different mobile phones and used by up to four handsets simultaneously (provided they are all Vodafone customers of course).

Copyright © 2010, Wireless Watch

Wireless Watch is published by Rethink Research, a London-based IT publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter delivers in-depth analysis and market research of mobile and wireless for business. Subscription details are here.

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
Of COURSE Stephen Elop's to blame for Nokia woes, says author
'Google did have some unique propositions for Nokia'
FCC, Google cast eye over millimetre wireless
The smaller the wave, the bigger 5G's chances of success
It's even GRIMMER up North after MEGA SKY BROADBAND OUTAGE
By 'eck! Eccles cake production thrown into jeopardy
Mobile coverage on trains really is pants
You thought it was just *insert your provider here*, but now we have numbers
Don't mess with Texas ('cos it's getting Google Fiber and you're not)
A bit late, but company says 1Gbps Austin network almost ready to compete with AT&T
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.