Sprint, the third largest wireless carrier in the US has been selling its femtocell device called AIRAVE since 2008 to enhance its voice coverage through broadband router in weak cell reception areas such home, office buildings,..

imageThe first version of AIRAVE only offers limited support for data, meaning if you have a 3G broadband modem, the modem is not getting 3G bandwidth, instead only CDMA 1x is provided . The limitation has not been an issue, unless the device you want to connect only has 3G radio and no WiFi.

Since the beginning of 2010 AT&T started its Femtocell, which provides both voice and data over 3G. Sprint has to update to a new version of its AIRAVE called AIRVANA. The new version promises support for Sprint 3G (EV-DO) data speeds.   It is unclear how Sprint will market nor how the company offers the device for free to qualified customers.

[Via FierceWireless]

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Over a year behind Sprint and Verizon, AT&T finally announced it 3G MicroCell will be available starting mid April. MicroCell is a solution that allows residential customers to route wireless phone calls and data connections across a home broadband connection.

imageUnlike Sprint only voice capable AirRave , AT&T 3G MicroCell is the only femtocell to support both 3G data and voice services. AT&T 3G MicroCell is available for a one-time cost of $149.99 (no monthly fee)

Consumers manage AT&T 3G MicroCell though their online MyWireless account at www.att.com/mywireless.

Through this online management, only those phones chosen by the customer may use the MicroCell. Customers may define up to 10 lines to have access and up to four may operate on it simultaneously. Minutes used through the MicroCell affect only the account of the phone making the call – there is no requirement to purchase separate service for the 3G MicroCell.


More details from AT&T:

In addition, AT&T will offer a companion rate plan option for MicroCell customers – especially customers on Family Talk plans — who want to supplement their existing voice plans. For $19.99 a month, individual or Family Talk customers can make unlimited calls through a 3G MicroCell, without using minutes in their monthly wireless voice plan.

Consumers who select 3G MicroCell calling plans at purchase are also eligible to receive a $100 mail-in-rebate toward the purchase of AT&T 3G MicroCell – effectively making the device about $50. Customers who also purchase a new line of broadband service with AT&T (DSL or U-verse 1.5MB or higher) are also eligible for $50 via mail-in-rebate– effectively making the device about $100. If a customer is eligible for both rebate options, the customer will be able to get the device for $0, after mail-in rebate.

For more information on AT&T 3G MicroCell, visit www.att.com/3gmicrocell. For the complete array of AT&T offerings, visit www.att.com.

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In the US, with its vast areas, cellphone blanket coverage has been an issue across carriers. In many home, office buildings, receiving consistent cell signal is still a challenge for both voice and data.

Starting last August 2008, Sprint was the first carrier to make available its femtocell device call AIRAVE, a mini cell tower, which connects to the cellphone carrier network using your home broadband and is aimed at improving indoor network coverage (as much as 5,000 square feet), providing low-cost unlimited in-home voice calling plan and reducing monthly communication expenditure.

Subsequently, Verizon launched its femtocell product in early 2009 (voice only). Vodafone became the first carrier in Europe with the commercial launch of its femtocell product in the UK in July 2009. Spain’s Telefonica is also currently conducting trial runs through its subsidiary O2 Europe.

According to Yahoo! Finance, AT&T is set to unveil nation’s first 3G femtocell product. The device (called “3G Microcell”) is expected to reach select U.S. markets including Atlanta, San Antonio, Seattle and North Carolina in the next week. The company has been conducting field trials of 3G Microcell in several test markets with nationwide rollout is expected by the end of 2009.

AT&T’s 3G Microcell is designed to improve wireless signal for both voice calls and data applications in home and small business settings and supports up to 10 3G capable cellular handsets. This is in contrast to the femtocell products of Verizon and Sprint that does not support 3G data applications and works with 2G handsets.

There is no pricing available at the moment.

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Motorola announced that its KeepMeConnected(TM) Femtocells – CDMA 9100 Series has been selected as an honoree of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) Innovations 2009 Design and Engineering Awards. The integrated touch-screen digital picture frame with a built-in femtocell is recognized in the Furniture product category.

image The CDMA Femtocell 9100 Series includes a session-initiated protocol (SIP) / voice-over Internet protocol (VoIP) soft phone and provides enhanced mobile phone coverage inside the home. A first of its kind, the CDMA 9100 Series allows users to deploy a femtocell – a small, low-cost, wireless access point – connected through a broadband connection for optimal wireless performance and coverage. The device also serves as a touch-screen digital picture frame, fitting aesthetically into a home environment.
"We are pleased to be honored for this innovative product that brings consumers the true benefit of media mobility," said Fred Wright, senior vice president, Wireless Networks, Motorola, Inc. "This product highlights one of Motorola’s core competencies as a technology integrator and combining our expertise with other technologies makes this a unique, integrated product."
Making it simple for users to manage and deploy wireless coverage in their home or small business, the CDMA Femtocell 9100 Series measures users’ indoor coverage needs. Its integrated touch screen allows consumers to manage the femtocell coverage with a user-friendly interface. Manually, users can specify coverage radius, average number of walls, windows, doors, or select one or more mobile devices to optimize the coverage area and performance. In addition, device and subscriber management and access control settings can be controlled dynamically on the device itself.

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Sprint’s FemtoCell device called Airave just went live nationwide, Sprint cellphone subscribers can order  the base device for $99.99, with $4.99 monthly charge to current plan minutes or $20 per month for unlimited calling for multiple lines.

Sprint AIRAVE™ is a device that creates a CDMA signal for your mobile phone via your broadband modem (like a miniature cell tower for your home). AIRAVE provides enhanced and reliable mobile phone coverage in your house or office even if your existing wireless coverage is poor.  When you leave home, your calls are automatically transferred to the Nationwide Sprint PCS Network.

[Source Sprint Via Engadget]

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airave-t.jpgMy family and I are Sprint customers and our home happens to be in a very weak cellphone signal coverage. I was very happy to cover the “Femtocell” technology in the past, but the commercialization of such product never came to reality. Until now.

I just learned from ZDNet that Sprint on Monday launched a device called the Airave in Denver and Indianapolis that will boost the wireless company’s coverage in homes. All Sprint customers will have Airave service in 2008.

The hardware of the Airave is made by Samsung, a Femtocell station that connects to your home broadband router to provide unlimited calling to any Sprint phones. The device will cost $49.99 and service will run $15 a month for individuals and $30 for families. These costs are in addition to Sprint wireless service.

Sprint’s effort is better than the similar T-Mobile’s @Home service, which requires specific phones.

While I welcome the new feature, which addresses more my dilemma about poor cell signal than making unlimited call over WiFi. I am still puzzled the fact that why do I have to pay more to get the quality of service that I am supposed to get? [Via ZDNet Source Sprint]


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It’s been on and off, but it seems that Femtocells – miniature cellular base station that sit inside our homes and offices and amplify cellular signals – are making it to the market.

For people who are having difficulty receiving cell signal in their home. Femtocell, miniature cellular base station that can piggy back on the home broadband network to extend the cell signal in the home.  Recently, an increasing number of companies have started to announce availability of femtocell devices. 

Last April we reported Samsung  announced the “UbiCell” – a femtocell product – in both CDMA and WCDMA versions. Femtocells are cellular base stations the size of a wi-fi access point that provide cellular coverage in the home. Sprint plans to launch it in late summer 2007. The UbiCell connects to the carrier’s network via a home broadband connection (DSL or cable.) Phones must be authorized to use the femtocell – meaning the signal is not available to guests or neighbors – although up to four authorized users can use it simultaneously. The CDMA version supports both 850 and 1900 bands, plus EVDO and seamless handoffs to towers on the main network. Users can travel with the UbiCell and use it wherever there is power, broadband, and their carrier has licensed spectrum. A GPS system ensures it does not operate in areas the carrier is not licensed.

GigaOm reports today 2Wire, which makes DSL residential gateways, and is part owned by AT&T, recently announced that it will include femtocell functionality in its devices. The voice calls can be carried over the DSL connections, without needing a WiFi connection.

Furthermore, Netgear, recently teamed up with Ubiquisys and will develop a new residential gateway that will have integrated DSL modem, Wi-Fi, VoIP and 3G femtocell technology, and will be available in 2008.

Mobile carriers are obviously worried by the impact of WiFi and VoWiFi on their voice revenues. Vodafone, world’s cellular operator has issued an RFP for femtocells, much like France Telecom, the parent company of Orange.

I am wondering revolutionary solution like this one, which will help consumer to save money (personally, I can certainly get rid of my landline phones currently subscribed from my broadband Cable modem provider). But how Cable modem provider will react to the fact that carriers cutting to their revenue stream while taking advantage of their broadband bandwidth. This will be an interesting thing to watch. Don’t forget that Broadband provider can easily block certain traffic such VoIP or other special traffic from this Femtocell. 

Intriguing proposition from Sprint, basically for people who are having difficulty receiving cell signal in their home. Sprint is offering a “mini Sprint tower” to piggy back on their home broadband network. This will extend the cell signal in the home and as extra bonus, why not eliminate your landline bill too?.

Samsung  announced the “UbiCell” – a femotcell product – in both CDMA and WCDMA versions. Femtocells are cellular base stations the size of a wi-fi access point that provide cellular coverage in the home. Sprint plans to launch it in late summer 2007. The UbiCell connects to the carrier’s network via a home broadband connection (DSL or cable.) Phones must be authorized to use the femtocell – meaning the signal is not available to guests or neighbors – although up to four authorized users can use it simultaneously. The CDMA version supports both 850 and 1900 bands, plus EVDO and seamless handoffs to towers on the main network. Users can travel with the UbiCell and use it wherever there is power, broadband, and their carrier has licensed spectrum. A GPS system ensures it does not operate in areas the carrier is not licensed.

I am wondering revolutionary solution like this one, which will help consumer to save money (personally, I can certainly get rid of my landline phones currently subscribed from my broadband Cable modem provider). But how Cable modem provider will react to the fact that Sprint is cutting to their revenue stream while taking advantage of their broadband bandwidth. This will be an interesting thing to watch. Don’t forget that Broadband provider can easily block certain traffic such VoIP or other special traffic from this Femtocell. 

[Source PrNewswire]

image For sometime, cellular carriers have made available Femtocell devices to improve calling service coverage in some poor reception areas and also help to decongest their crowded cellular network. Femtocell is a small device often called mini tower. It is normally connected to a home Internet router to reroute cell signal to IP network.

Sprint just announced plan to bypass those devices via a software update to selected phones. Initially, the software will allow owners of the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini and the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mega phones to place calls via WiFi when WiFi network is available. Call reception and quality over WiFi should be improved drastically when compared to cell network. Sprint plans to bring the same capability to additional devices in 2014.

The capability basically makes your cell phone acting as an IP phone. Calls placed over WiFi will not count toward the calling minute plan and Calls placed from overseas to local numbers are considered local calls.

Note that ongoing call will be disruptive when switching from WiFi to cellular network.


[Source Sprint]

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image Wi-Fi Calling is a free feature for T-Mobile customers with selected Wi-Fi capable phones. The feature allows to place or receive calls via a WiFi network instead of the cell network. A great solution for people who have cell signal reception issue at home or office.

Minutes used while connected to the Wi-Fi network count against available rate plan minutes And the hand-off between networks is disruptive. Currently, T-Mobile offers Wi-Fi Calling on devices including the Nokia E73 Mode, BlackBerry Curve 8520, BlackBerry Bold 9700 and the new BlackBerry Curve 3G. 2G, myTouch 4G and Motorola DEFY. T-Mobile hints that more Android smartphones will have this capability.

The capability comes as an app on the smartphone. WiFi calling supersedes @Home UMA and  HotSpot Calling.

T-Mobile solution does not require additional equipment as the other completive products do. Competitive products include the Sprint Airave, Verizon Network Extender and AT&T 3G Microcell.

Press Release 

 T-Mobile Extends Wi-Fi Calling to Android Smartphones
Wi-Fi Calling To Be Available on New T-Mobile myTouch, Motorola DEFY and More
BELLEVUE, Wash. – Oct. 6, 2010 – T-Mobile USA, Inc. today announced its continued innovation of Wi-Fi Calling technology with the upcoming availability of built-in Wi-Fi Calling solutions planned for a wide selection of Android™-powered smartphones, including the recently announced new T-Mobile® myTouch® and Motorola DEFY™ with MOTOBLUR™.
A leader in bringing innovative and easy-to-use solutions to market to enhance indoor coverage for consumers and provide cost saving for businesses, T-Mobile hosts approximately 40 million Wi-Fi calls per month, a number that has grown steadily since the company launched Wi-Fi Calling in June 2007. In addition to consumers benefiting from enhanced coverage, T-Mobile business customers – from small business to multinational corporations – have long taken advantage of the company’s Wi-Fi Calling plan offerings, enabling them to take advantage of the enhanced coverage, as well as the opportunity for reduced domestic and international minute usage, increased enterprise mobility cost savings and improved productivity benefits this solution can deliver. Currently, T-Mobile offers Wi-Fi Calling on numerous devices including the Nokia E73 Mode™, BlackBerry® Curve™ 8520, BlackBerry® Bold™ 9700 and the new BlackBerry® Curve™ 3G.
"T-Mobile’s expansion of Wi-Fi Calling to Android smartphones is an excellent innovation, and part of our ongoing initiatives on behalf of our customers to enhance indoor coverage," said Torrie Dorrell, vice president, connected family products and services, T-Mobile USA. "This new execution of Wi-Fi Calling technology helps us ensure that our customers’ Android-powered smartphones can keep them connected to the important people in their lives where they work, live or play."
The implementation of Wi-Fi Calling for Android smartphones brings a new solution to a fast-growing mobile platform and broader range of smartphones for consumers and business customers. Powered by Kineto’s Smart Wi-Fi Application, T-Mobile’s Wi-Fi Calling for Android smartphones will be ready to use out-of-the-box, providing the ability to make voice calls and send SMS from accessible Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g/n) access points across the globe in addition to the connectivity available through T-Mobile’s mobile network. The application will also include a tutorial for the benefit of first-time users of the feature.
Availability
Wi-Fi Calling for Android is anticipated to be available on a growing selection of T-Mobile’s Android-powered smartphones in the coming months.
The new T-Mobile myTouch is expected to be available in time for the holidays, exclusively from
T-Mobile USA in four colors -white, black, plum or red. Customers can visit http://mytouch.t-mobile.com for more information.
Motorola DEFY with MOTOBLUR is expected to be available exclusively to T-Mobile USA customers in time for the holidays. For more information on Motorola DEFY with MOTOBLUR. Customers can visit http://www.T-Mobile.com for more information.

 

Q&A

What is Wi-Fi Calling?

Wi-Fi Calling is a free feature for T-Mobile customers with a Wi-Fi capable phone. Minutes used while connected to the Wi-Fi network count against available rate plan minutes.

What are the benefits of Wi-Fi Calling?

The benefits of Wi-Fi Calling include the following:

Best Coverage:

  • Wi-Fi Calling provides a coverage option to improve upon your current in-home coverage experience
  • Wi-Fi Calling works anywhere there is an open Wi-Fi signal available

Keeps you connected to those who matter most:

  • Provides the coverage you need at the price you want
  • No extra fees for improved coverage

Supported by T-Mobile:

  • Supported by T-Mobile’s customer service

How does Wi-Fi Calling differ from Unlimited HotSpot Calling?

HotSpot Calling was grandfathered in October 2009. The feature provided unlimited minutes over Wi-Fi for $9.99 per month.

Wi-Fi Calling allows customers to use their mobile phones to connect to any Wi-Fi signal. Wi-Fi Calling uses included minutes and has no monthly cost. Calls made via Wi-Fi Calling use regular plan minutes.

How does Wi-Fi Calling differ from T-Mobile @Home?

T-Mobile @Home was grandfathered in March 2010. The service provided home phone service for $9.99 per month. It allowed customers to have their landline and wireless phone services on one bill and with one provider.

Wi-Fi Calling allows customers to use their mobile phones to connect to any Wi-Fi signal. Wi-Fi Calling uses included minutes and has no monthly cost. Calls made via Wi-Fi Calling use regular plan minutes.

How much does Wi-Fi Calling cost?

Wi-Fi Calling uses included minutes and has no monthly cost. Calls made via Wi-Fi Calling use regular plan minutes.

What equipment do I need to use Wi-Fi Calling?

To use Wi-Fi Calling, you will need the following equipment:

  • A Wi-Fi Calling capable device
  • Wi-Fi Internet access:
    • Cable
    • DSL
    • FiOS
  • Wireless Router (does not need to be T-Mobile branded)

How do I set up Wi-Fi Calling on my phone?

To set up Wi-Fi Calling on your phone, click here.

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There are rumors that Sprint Airwave will go nationwide on July 15th. After the trial in Denver and Indianapolis last year.

Sprint AIRAVE™ is a device that creates a CDMA signal for your mobile phone via your broadband modem (like a miniature cell tower for your home). AIRAVE provides enhanced and reliable mobile phone coverage in your house or office even if your existing wireless coverage is poor.  When you leave home, your calls are automatically transferred to the Nationwide Sprint PCS Network.

The hardware of the Airave is made by Samsung, a Femtocell station that connects to your home broadband router to provide unlimited calling to any Sprint phones. The device will cost $99 and monthly services (reportedly $15 for individual and $30 for family). These costs are in addition to Sprint wireless service.

image

Sprint’s effort is better than the similar T-Mobile’s @Home service, which requires specific phones. Sprint users can use any Sprint CDMA available phones to take advantage of this service.

Granted, the service allows unlimited calling minutes (minutes don’t count toward your existing plan), But for people who already have a generous minute plan, I am still puzzled the fact that why do I have to pay more to get the quality of service that I am supposed to get?

[Source Sprint AIRAVE™ via SprintUsers]

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When you live in a weak cell signal area, there are solutions to amplify the signal such FemtoCell, UMA or few other signal booster devices that are in general expensive. I found this GM-R80 device that seems only available in Europe. It  is relatively affordable at around 190 Euros ($250).  The GM-R80 offers about 860 sqft of wireless coverage, which is enough for an average office floor or a residence.

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We all agree while the cellphone coverage is almost everywhere, its reliability and consistency is sporadic compared to a landline system, such the one you use at home. The cellphone industry recognizes the fact and already started exploring technologies such FemtoCell, UMA, etc…

VTech Communications does not want the customer to wait for the mobile carriers. They just released new $150 Expandable Cordless Phone System with Bluetooth, the LS5145. In addition to its normal duty being a landline cordless phone, this device synchronizes with your cellphone and redirects incoming cell calls to ring wherever the VTech phones are placed in the house. It pairs up to two Bluetooth cellphones (only 1 can be used at the time), and can be expanded using additional handsets model LS5105 that cost $80 each.

The 5.8 GHz LS5145 supports incoming and outgoing call to selected paired Bluetooth cellphone as well as your regular landline. If you don’t have a landline, this device can be used as your cellphone hub or router. All the advanced functions such hold, swap, call-waiting are also supported. Each handset is equipped with a speakerphone, and missed calls are noted on the beautiful color screen and in a call log, along with the date and time. A built-in intercom system lets handsets communicate with the other or the base station. Users can choose from one of 23 ringtone-like melodies. As the Bluetooth coverage dictates, the cellphones paired and the LS5145 base should be near by within 30ft. However the handsets can be at longer distance from the base as normal landline wireless phone.  

Product page

SolSie Reader & OCWMUG Meet-up last night was great fun, entertaining and informative (and great Mexican food. Thx to Chris J.). 20 of our members were present at the Microsoft new Briefing center in Irvine, CA.

We had S. Patel, AT&T Wireless Enterprise Architect to give a presentation on AT&T future plan including 4G LTE (Long Term Evolution) tech. He also gave some hints about AT&T might use FemtoCell in near future to bridge the Cellphone Network with your home WiFi as we covered HERE!.

We had the chance to have some hands on with the new Windows Mobile® 6 double slider phone Pantech Duo featuring a 12-key numeric keypad (vertical slider) and a QWERTY keyboard (horizontal slider) inside one impressively compact design.

Members won great prizes including Microsoft various software packages. The grand prize when to Scott P. with the combo Microsoft Laser/Bluetooth 7000. The evening ended in style with the Magic show from Howard P!

Many thanks to all the participants!

T-Mobile has been offering their @Home (UMA – Unlicensed Mobile Access) service that uses short-range Wi-Fi networks to improve reception when needed. The service would improve indoor coverage by automatically and seamlessly swapping calls from the cellular network to run over Wi-Fi and also allows access to all the T-Mobile hotspots (e.g. Starbucks, Airports, etc..) to make unlimited calls. Unlike Sprint Airave, so far the Hotspot@Home service requires certain phone models but last weekend T-Mobile adds  a version of the BlackBerry Curve  8320 with Wi-Fi, which should make this the first Smartphone to support this carrier’s VoIP service.

Blackberry 8320 user will  be able to use Wi-Fi to download email and access the Web when near to a hotspot or T-Mobile Edge network elsewhere.

The BlackBerry Curve 8320 is expected to go on sale in the near future for $250 with a two-year contract.

[Via Brighthand]