AT&T Confirms Femtocell Trials, Plans Expansion in 2009

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The head of AT&T’s Operations division has confirmed previously leaked information that the company is in fact testing femtocells for use with its service, and has announced plans to conduct a larger “city-sized” trial in the second quarter of 2009.

It was previously discovered from employee comments online that AT&T was rolling out a limited-scale program of femtocells for testing in employee homes early last month.

While no comments were forthcoming about price or availability to the public, previous reports have suggested that AT&T has a deal with London-based firm ip.access to supply femtocells to AT&T users at a price of approximately $100.

What’s a Femtocell?

Femtocells are tiny cellular access points which plug into a broadband Internet connection. They provide both voice and high-speed data coverage through the Internet connection to normal mobile phones and smartphones, allowing users to have coverage in any supported area without relying on the main cellular network, and without the use of bulky or expensive antennas and amplifiers.

They are used in areas where reception from regular cell towers is weak, such as a rural location or inside some large buildings.

Sprint was the first U.S. carrier to offer femtocells in the form of its Airave service, and Verizon Wireless is reportedly close to offering a similar option.

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