verizon network extenderRumors are circulating that Verizon Wireless customers may have the ability to get their own femtocell devices as early as January 25th.

According to Engadget, Verzion is preparing to release the Verizon Network Extender by the end of this month.  For those unfamiliar with femtocell devices, these are units that plug into your home Internet connection and give you extra cell phone coverage within a building by routing your calls over the Internet.  This gives the customer better coverage in their home or office, and helps out the cellular provider in that they don’t have to build additional towers to cover out of the way locations.

Sprint has been offering their own femtocell device, the AIRAVE, for several months now, and, as we reported, it appears AT&T may also be entering into the femtocell market sometime in the future.

With the AIRAVE having been first out of the gate, we have a barometer to measure these devices by, and the Verizon option is certainly falling short of it.  Sprint offered their device for $99 and unlimited calls with their service plan.  At this time it appears that Verizon’s device will run an amazing $249 with no mention of unlimited calls.  Of course, it can also be said that these devices should be free with the extra service plans they are selling since you are technically assisting the carrier, but we are unlikely to ever see that.

Categories: Cell Phones, Opinion   
 

at&t logoIt look like AT&T may be following in the foot steps of Sprint by offering their customers in home cell phone base stations.

According to a report on Ars Technica, AT&T has been asking in a customer service survey if they would be interested in a femtocell base station for their home.  A femtocell station is a device that allows your cell phones to communicate with an in home device that connects to your Internet connection, and then transmits all of the data over that line.  The best known example of this technology so far in the USA is the Sprint Airave, but it is still relevantly unkwnon.

The exact wording of the question being asked of the customers may give some idea of why AT&T is finally pursuing this service line.

AT&T’s new product is a small, security-enabled cellular base station that easily connects to your home DSL or Cable Internet, providing a reliable wireless signal for any 3G phone in every room of your house. The device allows you to have unlimited, nationwide Anytime Minutes for incoming or outgoing calls.

While the Sprint Airave has the ability to service the more common CDMA phone band, the fact this specifically mentions 3G makes you wonder if this might be an effort to boost sales of the iPhone 3G more than anything.  Many people have by passed getting the iPhone because of a lack of 3G service in their area, but if they could now get full advantage of their phone at least in their home.

While this is obviously a technology that helps the phone companies by taking some strain off their networks, and helps them not have to build more towers, they still end up charging you for the physical device, and then they charge you a monthly service fee for being provided with a service… that helps them and works off of your Internet connection.  There is no doubt that as a Sprint Airave user myself it is nice to finally have five bars in my house, but the math doesn’t always add up as to why I pay so much more to use my own phone.

There is no information on when testing might begin on the AT&T devices, but apparently they are already in use in the homes of their employees.

Categories: Cell Phones, Opinion   
 

text messagesWhile you probably won’t be surprised to learn you are overpaying for your text messages, you may be surprised by just how much you really are.

The New York Times has taken a look in to the Senate antitrust subcommittee’s investigation of text messaging rates, and it is a scary result to be sure.  While the main focus of the investigation has been to determine why text messaging rates have doubled over the past three years, it seems that even $.01 would be too much to pay for a text.

According to a professor of computer science at the University of Waterloo, in Ontario, Srinivasan Keshav, text messaging costs are too minuscule to even be calculated.  This is because he reveals that text messages transmit in an area known as “the control channel” which is essential to the operation of a wireless network, and this also attributes to why text messages are kept to 160 characters so they don’t interfere with the operation of the network itself.  In short, so long as the network is running, text messages are going to pass through a channel that needs to be running any way which means the companies are not paying anything extra to transmit your message.

So when you pay $.20 on a pay-as-you-go plan, the phone companies are making essentially $.20.  Unlimited text plans may look appealing, but they are also pretty much pure profit.

The government is going to continue to look in to this, but I am certainly going to be groaning a little louder each month when I pay my wireless bill.

Categories: Cell Phones, News   
 
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