Verizon Wireless began selling a device at the end of January that boosts cell phone signals within a home, making it easier for people to drop a home phone line and rely solely on wireless.
These devices are known as “femtocells.” Once Verizon’s Network Extender is connected to a broadband Internet line, it acts as a miniature cellular tower, listening for signals from a subscriber’s cell phone up to 5,000 square feet.
Verizon Wireless, the country’s largest carrier, is following in the footsteps of Sprint, which started selling a femtocell under the Airave brand last year.
Sprint’s Airave costs $100, but the company charges an extra $5 per month for use. Verizon Wireless is not charging a monthly fee. Both Verizon Wireless and Sprint femtocells are made by Samsung and relay voice and low-speed data connections.
AT&T is currently testing femtocells in employees’ homes. Plans to conduct customer trials will begin in the second quarter. The AT&T unit will relay fast 3G data connections.
“Our new Network Extender device will bring the full benefit of the Verizon Wireless voice network to the small but important segment of customers who may experience a weaker signal in their homes because of geographic or structural conditions,” said Jack Plating, Chief Operating Officer of Verizon Wireless. “For those who have wanted to sign up for Verizon Wireless service but hesitated because of reception problems unique to their home location, this is the answer.”
T-Mobile has chosen a different technological standard to expand indoor coverage. It offers Wi-Fi routers and handhelds that can make calls over Wi-Fi in addition to regular wireless calls.
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