So, even though using a femtocell reduces their operating costs by two thirds, Vodafone and AT&T will charge customers full price, by counting this traffic against their subscribers’ data caps.
What this means is that all 3G traffic has to go into the core network for authentication first and cannot pass directly to the internet, as is the case with WiFi. Transmission from the femto to the wireless operator’s core is by the ISP, but the carrier pays for routing (via its own infrastructure, primarily a Serving GPRS Support Node or SGSN) and peering/termination (instead of the ISP).
Of course, the LI rules aren’t applied to WiFi. The logical conclusion of this situation is that the security services’ right to listen in actually depends on the specific radio in the handset. With 5MHz CDMA they can listen; with 20MHz OFDMA they can’t. VoIP-over-3G is different from VoIP-over-WiFi. The paradox increases when LTE is added to the mix: a 20MHz OFDMA signal at 2.6GHz (LTE) will be treated differently to a 20MHz OFDMA signal at 2.4GHz (WiFi)!
Whatever the technical solutions, I would think a saving of two-thirds must be worth having from the carriers’ point of view. If I were them I’d offer unlimited data femtocells and accept the small cost. Certainly if, like AT&T, an operator has been offering an ‘unlimited’ voice service, it would make sense to make it unlimited for femtocell-data too, generating a clear profit into the bargain.
It’s a controversial question; one that carriers are wrestling with, but that they should be able to solve straight away, at least as far as customers are concerned. Reducing costs by 70% is worth doing.
Softbank, with its free femtocell pitch in Japan, has got it right in this respect. Although AT&T and Vodafone have made excellent steps in bringing femtocells to consumers, on the data cap question they have a long way to go.
picoChip provides technology products that enable new types of cellular communications service and that can cost effectively improve existing services. http://www.picochip.com/
Mobile data offload with femtocells
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