Vodafone brings femtos to Europe

European carrier Vodafone said Tuesday that it will make femtocells available in the UK from next week - July 1.

James Middleton

June 23, 2009

2 Min Read
Vodafone brings femtos to Europe
Vodafone brings femtos to Europe

European carrier Vodafone said Tuesday that it will make femtocells available in the UK from the 1st of July.

The mobile operator made the announcement at the Femtocell World Summit in London Tuesday morning, and Mike Roberts, principal analyst for Informa Telecoms & Media said that the move marked the first commercial femto launch in Europe.

Vodafone has opted for what it hopes is a consumer-friendly name for the devices, which are effectively mini base stations, however. The ‘Access Gateway’ is described as a “neat box, similar in size to a router, that plugs straight into any home broadband line to bring customers improved and more reliable 3G coverage indoors.”

The unit will be free on selected tariffs, and the carrier will be bundling femtocells into a number of phone packages. These include an entry level tariff at £15 per month, which includes a Sony Ericsson C510 HSPA phone, 100 minutes and 500 texts; and another bundled for £30 per month, including an HTC Magic Android-based handset, 600 minutes and unlimited texts.

Europe’s first commercially available femtocell, which is manufactured by Alcatel Lucent,  can also be bought standalone for £160, or on a monthly charge from £5.

However, the promise that the Access Gateway will work with any broadband connection calls forth the issue of net neutrality. While Vodafone does offer a fixed line service in the UK, the company is effectively proposing to send its traffic over other carriers’ networks. The problem here is that Vodafone can’t guarantee quality of service on another operator’s network, and some opponents of net neutrality argue that it would be reasonable for the fixed line operator to cripple the mobile traffic travelling over its network.

Mobile operators such as Vodafone may have little choice, however. In-building 3G coverage is often problematic, and Kenny Graham, head of new technologies and innovation at Vodafone, said the immediate greatest need for mobile users today is reliable coverage throughout the home for both voice and data services.

“This is huge for the femtocell industry. A launch by a major operator in tough economic times shows they’re convinced there’s a strong business case for femtocells, initially for providing better voice and data coverage in homes, with more advanced applications and services to come,” said Informa’s Mike Roberts.

Also at the conference, US carrier AT&T confirmed plans for a full commercial national launch of femtocells by the end of 2009.

Among other big operators, Japan’s SoftBank Mobile launched femtocells in February 2009.

About the Author(s)

James Middleton

James Middleton is managing editor of telecoms.com | Follow him @telecomsjames

Get the latest news straight to your inbox.
Register for the Telecoms.com newsletter here.

You May Also Like