Thursday, July 1, 2010

Femtocells In Depth

At Ars Technica, I explain femtocells: In a long article at Ars Technica, I explain what makes femtocells tick, and whether they wind up as a good deal or not for consumers. I've been skeptical for years about femtocells because they are a tricky value proposition for carriers to explain.

"Our network is great, but because it's not, pay us extra money for this thing that we've advertised we can already do."

Not a great sale. Verizon, with the best network for voice in the US, sells its femto for $250, and it's just intended for improving reception. I don't hear complaints about it. People who live in places with poor coverage know that they get great coverage elsewhere, I suppose, and suck it up.

Sprint splits the difference, selling it ($100) for both unlimited calling (with a monthly fee of $10-$20/mo) and pure coverage ($5/mo). Its deal is best.

AT&T charges a relatively low price ($150), but because of complaints about its network coverage and quality in some urban areas, gets the most criticism as it's not precisely what people want. If AT&T coupled the femto with a decent calling plan, it would be more of a sell. AT&T wants $20/mo for unlimited North American family plan calling, which is only slightly cheaper than unlimited calling without being tethered to a femto.

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