Femtocell vs GAN

November 14, 2007


Wireless service providers in North America have started to market a new feature gimmick that allows a mobile phone user to reduce his/her air time while making calls from home.

Earlier this year TMobile started offering its Hotspot @Home feature nationwide. This service allows a subscriber to place calls from a mobile phone using cellular and Wi-Fi networks, whether a home wireless network or a hot spot operated by T-Mobile. You need a ‘WiFi capable phone‘ and a special service add-on, and calls are transferred automatically over between the cellular and WiFi networks. Cincinnati Bell also has a similar service – CB Home Run.

An alternate to using Generic Access Network (GAN) – formerly called Unlicensed Mobile Access (UMA) – to save on air time is to, er., have a personal cell tower right inside your home. This technology is made available to consumers using a device called Femtocell – formerly called Access Point Base Station (APBS).

This device is a scalable, multi-channel, two-way communication device extending a typical base station by incorporating all of the major components of the telecommunications infrastructure.

You plug this femtocell into your home broadband connection, and as soon as you enter your home while talking on your cellphone, it starts using the femtocell device. Sprint is running a pilot test of AIRAVE in Denver and Indianapolis, and is planning to launch this service nationwide early next year.

It remains to be seen which technology will win over the consumers eventually. From the looks of it, it appears that the WiFi option would win out just from the ubiquitous hotspots that are sprouting up all over town. With a femtocell, on the other hand, you extend your coverage only within your home.


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