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Optus is doing it – who will be next?!?
Vodafone UK has introduced a consumer femtocell for £50. A small box the size of a broadband modem, this device allows mobile phone customers who suffer from no signal or a weak signal at home to finally get coverage. This will give consumers more choice. The question now is when will one of the players get smart enough to give the box away bundled with broadband? I’d like to see the day when you can consolidate your home phone, ADSL, and 3G (4G?) contracts into one, and have fast access wherever you go.
Called the Vodafone Access Gateway, the consumer connects this box to their broadband router and it significally improves their mobile phone signal. It can be used anywhere within range in a typical home for up to 4 handsets, and supports all 3G functions.
The questions remain; when will they introduce this in Australia, and how much will it cost? If you boil down the mobile phone network in Australia, Telstra has (in general) superior coverage, and they charge 2-4X for the privilege of using it. Surely Vodafone, Optus, Virgin all are drooling at the prospect of eliminating this advantage AND having the customer willingly pay for the device and service.
Not that a similar strategy hasn’t been tried here before on a smaller scale – mobile signal boosters have been around for years, and are legal in many countries. Not here though, perhaps “explained” by this excerpt from a ZDNet Australia article from back in 2001:
Telstra carried out extensive testing for ACA last week but showed there was no improvement to mobile phone use when using boosters.
All boosters were found to cause significant interference to the network and other customer calls, under various conditions.
Tim Buckley, Telstra’s CDMA Director, says the use of illegal boosters jeopardised Telstra’s ability to provide the best possible service to its CDMA customers.
I suspect Telstra has already been pulling their government connection cards and coming up with reasons why it can’t, won’t, shouldn’t be done here in Australia. I wonder if the no-longer-government-yet-still-government Telstra will get to run all the tests on the femtocells? Perhaps the sound bite will be more straightforward this time (they probably will have ensured the ACMA makes it illegal immediately, and as with boosters, threaten a $220,000 fine for anyone caught in possession of one). It might read something like “All femtocells tested were found to cause Telstra’s competition to provide very satisfactory coverage for consumers who live in areas with weak signals, and this is unacceptable. John Doe, Telstra’s Next G service director, says the use of illegal femtocells jeopardised Telstra’s ability to charge triple for marginally better coverage in some areas.”
Well they weren’t able to stop it this time around…
Update: More opinion – Femtocell Article