Small cells

Off-Loading the iPad

2:45 PM -- It's interesting that AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) will have its 3G femtocell available -- at least in some markets -- as the iPad starts to arrive on its network. (See CTIA 2010: Where's Carrier Support for 3G iPad? and Apple Begins Shipping iPads.)

I doubt that the 3G iPad is entirely the reason that the carrier is launching the Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) MicroCell in April. After all, the carrier has already been testing the home base station in a few markets for months on the end. (See CTIA 2010: AT&T Femtos Go Commercial in April and Look for AT&T's Femto 'Soft Launch' Soon.)

Nonetheless, the ability to add a tiny radio at the edge of the network and off-load data traffic from the iPhone and iPad will doubtless be a nice bonus for AT&T. This is because a 3G femtocell will carry both voice and data traffic back to the carrier network over a user's own cable or DSL connection. (See Will the Apple iPad Crush 3G Networks?)

Of course, users will have to pay for the pleasure of buffed-up service in their homes, but are Apple iPhone and iPad owners ready either to pay $200 extra for the MicroCell or to get a rebate when signing on for a $20 monthly contract? Particularly as WiFi is a readily available off-load option.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile

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