updated 03:40 pm EDT, Thu April 24, 2008
AT&T Femto Cells
AT&T will be the next in the US to offer femtocells as its solution to customers who want indoor calling, says a report from financial analysts at ThinkPanmure. The US carrier is believed to have tapped Britain-based ip.access for a five-year contract purchase of the portable routers worth a total of $500 million. As with other femtocells, the AT&T models would fill in coverage in homes and other areas where cellular signals often encounter interference, creating a small wireless base station for a home that in turn connects to the larger cellular network.
Which models will be used and their exact costs are unknown, though ip.access makes routers capable of handling 3G data as well as calls and at least some of the femtocells on offer will sell for as little as $100. ThinkPanmure provides no direct indication of when the femtocells will appear, but observes that GSM carriers should start using the equipment sometime next year.
The news would make AT&T the second US carrier to offer femtocells, the first being Sprint. The smaller opponent to AT&T began using Samsung Airave cells late last year and is gradually rolling out the option to other areas. Sprint partly subsidizes the price of the hardware in exchange for a subscription, but lets customers make unlimited calls whenever in range of the access point.