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Femto fail: Vodafone's Sure Signal gets a bit shaky again

Requires occasional square-wave in power supply, says Voda

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Vodafone's femtocell offering, Sure Signal, is up the spout again. The UK's third largest operator said it was investigating and has recommended that disconnected punters try power-cycling the kit.

Vodafone reckons the problem, which surfaced last week, is only hitting a small number of customers, but it's more than enough to fill half a dozen pages on the support forum and leave Vulture Towers, Caledonian branch, disconnected. Engineers are, we're told, working on the problem, but in the meantime turning the femto' off then on again seems to be working for some.

Vodafone is the only UK operator to publicly deploy femtocells - tiny base stations which backhaul over the customer's broadband connection. Three and O2 also have femto' offerings, but only for profitable customers who threaten to leave or beg hard enough, so not of the scale of Sure Signal.

Femtocells are incredibly intelligent, able to sense the macro network and select a suitable frequency on which to operate, and that intelligence is spreading into bigger cells simplifying installations even if femtos themselves haven't taken off. The radio side works very well, but opening the network infrastructure (and the billing systems) to connections coming over the public internet is scary stuff, so it's no surprise that operators are treading slowly.

Generally Sure Signal works very well, and it has certainly steadily improved since being deployed back in 2009 (under the less-catchy Vodafone Access Gateway moniker) to the point where many users have come to rely on the connectivity it provides – or doesn't, as the case may be. ®

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