Thursday, August 26, 2010

Sprint Ships 3G EV-DO Femtocells

Sprint puts 3G in femtocells at last: Sprint had the first entry in the femtocell market, those tiny cell base station that a subscriber installs in the home and plugs into his or her own broadband connection. But Sprint and later Verizon's femtos were 2G (1xRTT) only. For calls, that was no problem, but the data side would run at 2G, or a phone would make a weak 3G connection and reduce the macro cell base station's spectrum efficiency. If you had a CDMA phone with Wi-Fi, of course, your phone would simply use your local network for data.

Sprint's new 3G EV-DO device won't be sold or available for sale. Qualifying customers who have reception problems indoors will be offered the device. Sprint's cover is about 75 percent of the US population versus Verizon's over 95 percent. Sprint leans on Verizon's network and pays roaming fees--and cancels customers who roam too much.

A 3G femtocell could preserve Sprint customers who normally have good service except at home or in an office.

Fierce Wireless reports that there's no special plan or fee for the 3G femtocell. The 2G cell that Sprint offers for sale comes with a $5 monthly usage fee, and an optional $10 unlimited US calling plan for a single line or $20 for a family plan.

AT&T released its 3G MicroCell in limited markets for its GSM network earlier in the year. It's $150 upfront and no monthly fee for coverage improvement, or $50 with a rebate if you sign up for a pricey $20-per-line unlimited calling plan. The calling plan is so spendy, that it likely makes more sense to get a better overall plan than the femtocell.

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