M1 is rolling out a service that makes use of customers’ home or office broadband links to provide a better connection on the cellphone, whether this is to make calls or surf the Web.
Instead of connecting to the nearest base station that may be several kilometres away, these users’ phones hook up wirelessly to a femtocell device installed indoors, next to their broadband modem, and tap on the faster wired connection to reach the cellphone operator.
In essence, this offloads the traffic from the often congested cellphone networks to much faster, and often under-used fixed line networks.
M1’s service, to be out in the third quarter this year, promises to make things smoother for its 3G users. It estimates the rollout to cost between S$5 million and S$20 million, depending on the eventual scale.
The price for the service is not out yet, according to an M1 spokesperson. Calls made on the service may count towards the allocated minutes on a user’s subscription plan, though data used for Internet surfing should be free, she said.
Both work only with the respective telecom operators’ broadband lines, while M1 claims its service will connect with any broadband service.
Though femtocell technology is not new, there has been interest again of late because of the explosion in mobile data usage, and related problems like network congestion and spectrum crunch.
The big question is how telcos can make such a service attractive to users. Will telcos bundle a femtocell service as part of a broadband package, for example?
After all, by taking traffic off the airwaves, users are doing telcos a big favour as well.
If the deal is not attractive, why should a user be paying for an additional device at home and adding traffic to his own network? Cellphone coverage should in itself be good.
There’s also a simple alternative, though not a perfect substitute. That is to manually to switch over to Wi-Fi at home, which a lot of users already do.