back to article Femto cells with big ideas

Visitors to the Femtocell forum in London this week are being deluged with demonstrations showing what a Femtocell application can do, the only problem being that they are all the same, and that none of them work. Femtocells - very small network base stations designed to sit in the living room connected to the home broadband …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    Just a shame...

    ... That us mere plebs are not allowed to BUY a femtocell... nooo, we need OFCOM approval.

    How bizarre is that? I want a femtocell in my apartment because the signal from outside is notoriously crap, I'm not allowed a repeater, I'm not allowed an amplifier, I'm not allowed a femtocell.

    It's a shame.

  2. Tim Warren

    @ Just a shame...

    From 1st July you will be able to buy them from Vodafone!

  3. Dawid Lorenz

    Simplest application possible... to not charge for mobile data usage AT ALL while I'm on my femtocell. If that device is already attached to my broadband, which I am already paying for, then why should I pay additionally for data usage from mobile? I could just use my home WiFi instead for no additional charge and that's it.

    Voice calls should be somewhat discounted too. Femtocell takes the network traffic off the nearest base station, so why not to give some nice discount on this too?

    As a long-running base stations freak I am looking forward how this technology develops, hopefully in right way. And also now I am tempted to switch to Vodafone as soon as my T-Mobile's contract expires!

  4. Dawid Lorenz
    Thumb Down

    OK, silly me...

    I don't know how MTRs are working here in the UK, but I guess that is the factor that would rather prevent any discounts on voice calls.

  5. Pie Eater
    Paris Hilton

    Who chose that name?

    Why do I always think that a femto cell is connected to the female reproductive system?

    Perhaps there's an app here - add a pheromone sniffer, and the femto cell will tell the distaff side when they are at their most fertile. Sensible men will then know to book into a hotel/stay with a mate/their Mum for a few days.

    Paris, because it would confuse her completely.

  6. Will Harris

    So we need femtocells for location based services now?

    ummm.... most of the apps are just basic location based service triggers with the principal drawback that they only work with one location.... GPS or cell-tower positioning do this with the amazing functionality of being able to tell where you are outside of the house as well as when inside.

    and of course you have to pay for another piece of get to get the reduced functionality of the femtocell solution...

  7. Charles 9 Silver badge

    @Will Harris

    That's the thing. GPS only works well OUTSIDE. Even thin walls tend to block the singals, so GPS doesn't work indoors.

    As for the reason femtocells are regulated, it's because they're radio transmitters, and all radio transmitters above a certain power rating are regulated by law (OFCOM in Britain, the FCC in the USA, similar bureaus elsewhere) to prevent them causing interference (which in the wrong instance can cause catastrophic problems). Femtocells are above the power threshold and transmit in frequencies that CAN interfere with electronics, so there's no avoiding it.

  8. WhatWasThat?
    Black Helicopters

    Power Licensing

    The biggest deal with femtocells here in the States (Colonies) is that cells tend to latch on to the _strongest_ signal. Some phones have preferential selection for type of network, but very near the femtocells I have seen demonstrated here (within 20-25ft / 7-8m), the femtocell effectively BLOCKS OFF connection to any other signal nearby for cell reception.

    That means if you use one in an apartment complex, you will probably have the neighbors' cells on your femtocell, similar to the way they slurp off your wifi now.

    This makes is amazingly easy for fraud, etc. because tweaking your own "cell tower" does not reveal the phone number, but does show the ESN or other phone identifier and network ID, which can then be used for man-in-the-middle attacks for using other's network charges or close off cell access completely for those "late night visitors" that don't want to wait for you to leave before stopping by.

    All in all, just means that the average Joe will have the same capability as the Feds have had for decades now. All in the greater good, eh?

  9. Christopher Ahrens

    Location based reminders.

    I remember a technology that was great for this, I think they called them Post-it notes or something like that...

    What is with all this technology for the sake of technology anyway? This is just another device I don't need that I will have to feed.

  10. Weeble

    Why ??

    Industry Expert A : Connect a femto cell to your broadband because mobile coverage is crap.

    Industry Expert B : Mobile will fill in the holes in broadband coverage.

    Am I the only one who detects a contradiction in the above?

  11. Hugh McIntyre

    "check on-line if you're at home"...

    Unless the phone is switched off at night, of course.

  12. Glen 1 Silver badge


    what can this do that bluetooth/wifi/voip cant?

  13. TeeCee Gold badge
    Thumb Down

    @Charles 9

    "GPS doesn't work indoors."

    True. But I'm desperately trying to think of a reason why you'd need bloody GPS or accurate location reporting indoors. I guess Google need "HouseView" so you can find your way to the bog in your mate's new house without having to ask.

    Let's face it. Unless they live in a feckin' palace, the last known position of a device whose owner has gone indoors is still accurate to somewhere around the precision of GPS anyway.

  14. atiller

    Quick clarifications

    The basic idea is that the femtocell knows when you get 'home', which is different from knowing when you get to position (x,y).

    The demos showed how a femtocell can trigger things to happen when you 'get' home (assuming your phone is switched on) - they weren't really about about letting your (thieving?) Facebook friends know whether or not you are 'at' home.

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