Sprint Airave femtocell launch date surfaces

Sprint's indoor coverage-extending femtocell device, Airave, will be rolled out nationwide on July 15 according to early reports.

Airave is a device which connects to any cable modem or DSL router with an open port, and generates a signal to which mobile phones can connect. Airave allows up to three simultaneous voice connections to be made within a 5,000 square foot coverage area.

Additionally, Airave comes with a 20-foot long antenna that must be stationed near a window so its onboard GPS receiver can connect. This is necessary for the device to function because the GPS determines if it is stationed within Sprint-licensed territory. If this device is used in an area that does not offer some degree of native Sprint coverage, it will not function.

The service has been in several test markets since September 2007, and will become the first commercially-available femtocell service in the US. T-Mobile's T-Mobile@Home equivalent was launched at the end of June, several weeks earlier than Airave, but differs in that it is an Unlicensed Mobile Access (UMA) device.

Sprint Airave

One of the main advantages of femtocell over UMA is that it does not require a special handset, any of Sprint's CDMA devices (including the dual-radio CDMA/iDEN Power Source phones) will retain their full functionality with Airave. They are often thought of as a personal mini cell tower (Note: Femto is a metric measurement six orders of magnitude smaller than Nano.)

Sprint's Airave packages are expected to cost an additional $15 monthly for individual subscribers, and $30 for families. The Samsung femtocell hardware reportedly cost $50 in test markets, is expected to cost about $100 at the national level. T-Mobile's UMA router costs the same and adds only a $10 monthly charge, but requires a compatible handset.

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