AT&T to begin femtocell tests for improving cellular reception

A report from analysts at ThinkPanmure indicates AT&T will be releasing its own femtocell system with hardware provided by UK-based ip.access Ltd.

UK-based picocell and femtocell infrastructure vendor ip.access Ltd, whose Oyster 3G won the 2007 GSM Association "Best Radio Access Product" award, will reportedly be providing AT&T with seven million femtocell access points. Though it has not been disclosed if it will be the same Oyster model or a newer device, they will reportedly cost around $100.

Femtocell is one of a host of Fixed-mobile-convergence techniques geared in part toward improving cellular reception indoors. Unlike similar technique Unlicensed Mobile Access (UMA), however, femtocell does not require special dual-band handsets to use.

Sprint Nextel also supports this technology with its Airave femtocell product from Samsung, which costs $50 plus varying monthly fees.

Many believed that since Sprint began offering Airave at around the same time it spun off its landline business as Embarq that it was targeting landline customers hesitant to switch to mobile services instead of those simply needing better indoor signals.

With 83 percent of US consumers planning to keep their landlines in addition to their mobile phones, converged communications services such as these have found only a medium-sized user base.

AT&T's femtocell trial, according to the company, will begin later this year.

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