Posted by: Craig Mathias
You’re probably hearing a lot about femtocells, and I must admit the argument is seductive. Buy a femtocell, connect it to your broadband link, pay a nominal monthly fee, and get great coverage at your location – except for a couple of little details.
Think of a femtocell as a personal cellular base station, and that’s really what it is. At first glance this seems like a reasonable and perhaps even ideal way to go if you’ve got poor coverage from your carrier in your location. But the drawbacks to this approach are many:
- There’s the extra cost, both for the femtocell and for recurring monthly service
- There are potential issues with interference, as the femtocell overlays the larger macrocell operated by the carrier. This isn’t much of an issue for one single femtocell, but can be given the cumulative effect of many of them in a given area.
- Femtocells are a single-carrier solution. Suppose you end up with two carriers, as has often been the case for me? Suppose you switch carriers? What about guests visiting?
- And, given that broadband operators in the US do not have to operate under a policy of network neutrality, suppose your broadband supplier just decides at some point not to allow femtocell traffic? The broadband guys are are, after all, usually offering competitive phone service, so why lose that business to a carrier that pays them nothing?
In short, carriers going the femtocell route are asking us to pay even more to subsidize their failure to provide good service. I personally won’t play this game.
A better approach is either the repeater I discussed last time, or handing the cellular connection off to Wi-Fi, a technique initially called fixed/mobile convergence but really more aptly described as mobile/mobile convergence and today usually grouped under the general heading of unified mobile communications. This is perhaps the best solution of all – and more on it later.