AT&T the Latest to Jump on the Femto Wagon
AT&T is the last of the big three cellular operators in the U.S. to get onboard the femto bandwagon. Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) is already selling the Airave unit nationwide while Verizon says it could launch "early next year." AT&T says it will start trialing femtocells, which are tiny cellular radios that plug into a user's existing wired network and improve wireless coverage in the home, later this year and into 2009.
"As the nation’s leading provider of both wireless and broadband, it makes sense that we would examine the potential benefits of femtocells for our customers," an AT&T spokeswoman told Unstrung via email. "We’re currently doing testing in our labs and a trial is planned for later this year."
AT&T hasn't yet specified what vendors it might tap for the trials. As a GSM-based operator, however, AT&T has a lot more choice of potential suppliers than do its CDMA rivals like Sprint and Verizon.
Unstrung reported in May this year, however, that the operator could be looking at using a combined offering from Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and ip.access Ltd. The networking giant made an investment in the femtocell startup earlier in 2008. (See Cisco, ip.access Prep Femto Combo and Cisco Invests in ip.access.)
There are some suggestions that this sets up the potential for an ip.access femto module to be integrated into a Cisco-made home gateway. This would neatly bring together wired broadband with wireless coverage. There is no official word on this yet, however, and Cisco hasn't yet replied to calls for comment. (See Cisco to Acquire Scientific-Atlanta.) — Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung