LONDON AT&T's long-awaited entry into the femtocells market is believed to rely on home basestations supplied by ip.access (Cambridge, England), powered by silicon from picoChip (Bath, England) and Cisco acting as systems integrator.
The 3G service has started in the Charlotte, North Carolina area and is aimed at boosting voice capacity and coverage in the home.
The device can support up to four voice or data users at once, and subscribers can switch between the so-called MicroCell (AT&T's nomenclature for the home basestation) and AT&T's regular network without interrupting the call.
The device also incorporates a GPS chip that can be used to verify its location during setup. Security features prevent the device from being accessed by unauthorized devices.
Of course AT&T is not the only U.S. carrier looking at femtocells as a way to increase subscribers' coverage area. Sprint Nextel and Verizon Wireless have also released hardware , but it seems AT&T managed to beat its main rivals for a 3G service, rather than one relying on 2G technology, even though many had thought Sprint Nextel would be first.
There are also services in the Far East, and Vodafone launched a commercial service in the U.K. in July, when it became first European network operator to offer femtocells commercially to residential users.
Vodafone's 'Access Gateway' mini basestation comes from Alcatel Lucent, with much of the silicon again supplied by PicoChip.
AT&T is currently selling the device only in the Charlotte, North Carolina market; the price is $150. Users can get a $100 rebate if they sign up for a $20 monthly plan that provides unlimited calling for subscribers within the femtocell's range, the carrier said.
AT&T stressed that the company is taking a hard look at the pricing structure during the trial period, and pricing may change if the MicroCell is sold nationwide.
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