Sprint starts Femtocell rollout in two US cities

In a previous blog post, "Take advantage of Femtocells, the new cellular hotspots," I mentioned that Sprint was close to beginning trials of a femtocell modem. According to this September 19, 2007, NetworkWorld article, Sprint is now testing its femtocell devices with consumers in parts of Denver and Indianapolis.

The Airave is a small wireless base station that is designed to provide cellular coverage inside the home. The device costs approximately $50 US and requires a broadband Internet connection, through which the Airave gains access to the Sprint network. The subscriber will pay a flat monthly fee of $15 US for an individual or $30 US for a family plan -- for unlimited local and national long distance calls while accessing the Sprint network through the Femtocell.

The article also points out several interesting observations by In-Stat analyst Allen Nogee:

"The price is especially notable because Sprint isn't forcing buyers into long-term contracts. Sprint must be subsidizing the cost. I guarantee it costs more than $50."

"However, the carrier will make back some of its cost through the special flat service charge, because it wouldn't be making any money off the calls anyway -- many calls at home are made during nights and weekends when they are free."

"Maybe most importantly, the Airave could help Sprint cultivate loyal customers and get consumers to give up their landlines -- along with their relationships with Verizon and AT&T."

It will be interesting to see whether femtocell technology or competing UMA technology mentioned in the blog post "Fixed Mobile Convergence (FMC) bridges cellular networks and WLANs" will gain the most traction with consumers.