Sprint Launches Femtocell

Wow, just several days ago, I wrote that Sprint will launch Femtocells this year. Well, they didn’t wait that long did they?

Sprint Nextel has quietly started selling the AIRRAVE femtocell product in parts of Denver and Indianapolis to provide better cellular coverage and flat-rate calling at home. Sprint Nextel plans to start selling the Airave all across Denver and Indianapolis, as well as in Nashville, Tennessee, by year’s end, and plans to offer it nationwide in 2008. The Airave is made by Samsung Electronics and costs US$49.99. It is designed for plug-and-play so that people can install it themselves by plugging it into a broadband Internet connection (DSL or Cable Internet service required). For a flat monthly rate of $15 for an individual and $30 for a family, one gets unlimited local and nationwide long-distance calls while at home (or whereever the AIRAVE femtocell is).

The Airave works with any Sprint handset, and can support up to 3 handsets simultaneously. When a subscriber leaves home (i.e. goes out of the femtocell coverage area), the handset will automatically shift to the outside Sprint cellular network.

A femtocell is a small cellular base station that provides service specifically inside a building (e.g. a subscriber’s home). Femtocells are seen as competition to WiFi, where some cellular carriers such as T-Mobile use a dual-mode handset that can switch between cellular and WiFi (with WiFi providing the in-building coverage wherever applicable).Femtocells get the name from “femto,” which denotes a small order of size in physics. The idea has been around a long time but until recently was held up by size and cost concerns. While helping subscribers get good service, the devices save carriers from deploying more expensive base stations on towers to get to hard-to-reach pockets.

Sprint is just the first major U.S. carrier to offer femtocells. Expect to hear more about femtocells in the coming future.