The femto of the species

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So what is a femtocell? Essentially, it’s a mini base station that can be installed in the home or office to enable perfect mobile reception every time.

In concept and appearance they are much like the quietly successful Livebox and Home Hub services, from Orange and BT respectively, insofar as they plug into a broadband network to carry mobile voice and internet services.

But they differ from the likes of Livebox and Home Hub by routing more than just voice calls over the web. Everything is transferred this way, from voice and data to all the additional packet information that underpins mobile communications. It enables a proper two-way information feed too, which means calls and data transfer are cast iron, unless of course your home/office connection drops out.

But the really big draw for consumers is the potential reliability of the connections, especially in difficult environments like the home and office where calls can often drop and coverage black spots occur. Put simply, they allow users of mobiles – even 3G handsets, which are notorious for their difficult reception indoors – to enjoy top quality coverage in and around the home and office, with the added attraction of lower-cost calls across the broadband connection.

The chances are the femtocell boxes will be subsidised too, in the same way as the Livebox and Home Hub. Such a sales formula works too – look at what BSkyB has achieved with its ‘free’ boxes for subscribers.

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