Are Mobile Operators missing a trick with 4G?

TelecomPaper posted an article last week about Vodafone’s roll out of FemtoCells in European Markets (Femtos are small mobile broadband (3G/4G) “base transmitters” that provide additional, very localised coverage – in a home or office). The major benefit for Mobile Operators is that they connect into their mobile network via a standard home or office broadband link – so the purchaser picks up the cost of the broadband link.  TelecomPaper questioned if this consumers wouldn’t think this is infact a bit of a con, as they pay full Mobile Telco voice tariffs for a service which piggybacks on the consumers own broadband connection.

Which makes me think, Operators are missing a trick here. As simultaneously, a major issue that has Operators scratching their heads about as mobile broadband explodes, is how to provide hugely better and faster access to mobile broadband with 4G coverage.  A consensus is forming around deployment of “small cells” in congested areas. An issue is getting the rights to install the cells.

Surely, combining the two would make sense?  Mobile Operators could provide an option to make the Femto multi-use and reduce the price to the consumer in a fair exchange of value.  In areas of high 3G/4G usage they could even offer the devices for free.

The fill article can be viewed here.

My comment:

Good read, there are some interesting parallel developments. The mobile phone is gradually replacing the fixed phone as the main residential phone, meanwhile a femto is effectively a “small cell”. There may be benefits to operators beyond viewing it as as a home coverage device. By making it “public” the returns would (on average) be higher per device, thereby underwriting the HW cost. The price to the customer could then be significantly reduced. It might even be worth Operators offering Femtos at cost in areas with low coverage (rural) or, better still, high demand (city high-streets) as part of a wider roll out plan for LTE. This might be especially valuable for operators on higher LTE frequencies with weak indoor penetration. As for WiFi issues, smart phones automatically prioritise WiFi access over 3/4G, the issue Femto fixes for the user is the ability to make and receive traditional calls & SMS. It may even be worth Operators considering bundling a WiFi router with the Femto.

This isn’t a new idea.  In the UK British Telecom do the same with their WiFi Routers, although sadly not with consumers permission.  Doing something similar with Femtos – but with pricing built into the offering should benefit everyone.