Femto Fixed

9:15 AM Not a good start for the Vodafone Access Gateway

Michelle Donegan

September 22, 2009

3 Min Read
Femto Fixed

9:15 AM -- After weeks of trying, my Vodafone Access Gateway (a.k.a. femtocell) finally works. I appear to be one of the few people here in the U.K. who a) has a femtocell, and b) had a bad start with the device.

By most accounts, Vodafone's femto does what it's supposed to -- you plug it in, get your phone numbers programmed onto it, and, hey presto, you've got a really strong 3G signal.

For me, that's not how it went.

The setup was a breeze. It took about five minutes, if that, for the gateway to go through its initialization process after I connected it to my Orange Livebox and plugged in the power supply. The instructions were simple and straightforward. So far, so good.

I'm not a Vodafone customer, so the carrier's PR firm sent me a phone to use for the trial -- a GSM phone, which was amusing. They then sent over a Nokia N85, and it didn't take long for Vodafone to register the new number onto the femto. This is done manually and can take up to 24 hours for registration to be completed, according to the Gateway instructions. An automated system is due to be up and running in the next couple of months.

But for some still unknown reason, my calls and data sessions did not go through the Gateway. Even though the femto was sitting right next to the phone, the calls were being picked up by the macro network.

I talked to a few Gateway support people on several different occasions and each one was professional, well informed, and helpful. No one could make my femto work, but all of their indicators showed that it should work. I turned the femto on and off, I turned my phone on and off, took out the battery and restarted -- all of this many times and to no avail.

Vodafone sent another 3G handset, this time a Nokia 6730. The femto still didn't work, but the phone was ruled out as the source of the problem.

The Gateway support team (which is up to about five or six now) got its engineer on the case, and after refreshing and resubmitting my details onto the Gateway -- like an elaborate reboot -- the femto and my phone finally connected.

It's still a mystery why it didn't work at first. But now I'm looking at full-bars 3G coverage on my phone, which is pleasing.

If I had shelled out the £160 ($260) for the little femto here on my desk, I would not be happy about all that aggro. On the other hand, if I had no 3G coverage, maybe the cost and inconvenience would be worth it. Maybe.

Seriously, though, how many people are willing to pay for their own 3G coverage?

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Unstrung

About the Author(s)

Michelle Donegan

Michelle Donegan is an independent technology writer who has covered the communications industry for the last 20 years on both sides of the Pond. Her career began in Chicago in 1993 when Telephony magazine launched an international title, aptly named Global Telephony. Since then, she has upped sticks (as they say) to the UK and has written for various publications including Communications Week International, Total Telecom and, most recently, Light Reading.  

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