Verizon femtocell user report (Telecom)

(Apologies if this message is or seems trivial to some readers.)

Despite being within 2 or 3 miles of downtown Palo Alto, my house (and several adjacent houses in our area) are in a dead zone or shadow zone where our Verizon cell phones (and those of anyone else coming to our house) are more or less unusable inside our house or anywhere on our lot (their displays show at most a single bar or tower which flickers randomly on and off every few seconds, losing any calls that may get connected).

Two days ago we purchased a Verizon femtocell unit (officially known as a "Verizon Wireless Network Extender") and plugged it into the Ethernet router for our Comcast Triple Play Internet connection.

The unit auto-connected to the Verizon Internet site within minutes; the GPS light went on a few minutes later; and we now have 2 to 4 bars on all our phones throughout our largish house (and still zero bars at the street side and the back edge of the lot).

Purchase price about $120; 3 or 4 simultaneous calling channels; no monthly charge. Wish we'd done this months ago.

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I'm impressed. In the normal world telcos pay for the base station equipment, pay for the backhaul, and pay rent to the site owner. I negotiated three cell site leases on the municipal water tower when I was the water commissioner and later the mayor. The rent is substantial, totalling about $40,000 per year even though we are in a rural area far from any major highways.

But they've persuaded you to flip the model around entirely so you pay for the base station equipment, you pay for the backhaul, and you give them free rent.

Time to buy VZ stock, I guess.

R's, John

Reply to
John Levine

I think these things are a really great idea. They get more cellular infrastructure for free. You're paying for the equipment and the circuit, but the price is not that high. While the range is limited, this actually can be a benefit in terms of increasing capacity through frequency reuse.

I wonder what the limitations on range are. I imagine the antenna is nowhere as efficient as a typical base station antenna. They may not be able to increase power and still comply with FCC emissions safety requirements.

Anyway, get a bunch of these out there and they get a bunch more capacity at no cost.


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I take your point -- but the unit (whose price was actually $220 -- mea culpa) is equivalent to about two month's billing for our multi-user cellphone service, which we find well worth having for our household. Gets the job done; makes our cellphones now fully usable at home as well as during extensive local and more distant traveling; and benefits a couple of other tenant occupants also.

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In return for which, you get service in a place that otherwise would not have any, the market being too small to justify investment on the carrier's part. Sounds like a good deal to me.


Reply to
Garrett Wollman

Clever, isn't it? But I think the ATT femtocell is even better (for them). If I recall correctly, they even charge you a monthly fee.

Reply to
Matt Simpson

Now, consider the range of the 'femto-cell', and how many possible users there that benefit from it's emplacement.

BTW, Verizon _is_ paying for fully *half* of the cost of the backhaul for each of those femto-cells deployed.

Reply to
Robert Bonomi

With the disclosure that I'm both a user and a shareholder, back when t-Mobile started their similar "hot spot at home" option, which uses dual-capable "cell phones" to either tap into their network _or_ to use any accessable WIFI connection [a], they gave the users "untimed" use when hooked up via WIFI.

Alas, they dropped that as a freebie, so now you've got two choices:

1: to dip into your "bucket of minutes" with each call 2: to pay $10/month extra and get that unlimited option back.
[a] you can use these phones with an "open" WIFI base, or one that just needs a basic password. It won't work with a "splash screen".
Reply to
danny burstein

I'm not so sure femto cells will last. T-Mobile has UMA, which is a fancy way of saying WiFi enabled phones can make connect to T-Mobile's network through the internet. They even give you a router when you sign up for service. The advantage to the user calls made over WiFi are free.

In short, T-Mobile uses WiFi to get the same effect as a femto cell at a much lower cost to the subscriber (free).

Considering that more and more phones have built in WiFi, I can see this quickly becoming the standard way provide femto cell like coverage.


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AES writes:

The real beauty is that by doing their job for them, you help them charge you more on both ends. You use more minute$; and soon, you'll get rewarded with the excess use charge on your VZ DSL line to boot.

At the very least, Verizontal should give you free usage of your phones on your femtocell.

Reply to
David Lesher

How does the connection compare to the 'conventional' cellular network? I couldn't help but wonder whether the latency of the cable internet service - especially during congested periods - affected the audio quality.

***** Moderator's Note *****

I'm very interested in this question as well, but I'd like additional information:

  1. Does it only work on a Verizon DSL line?
  2. Is there any special setup involved, i.e., does a technician visit the premise?


Bill Horne Moderator

Reply to
Geoffrey Welsh

1) So far as I understand, it works on any Internet connection -- in our case via Comcast cable Triple-Play. An Apple Extreme base station/router is daisy-chained over a 1 m RJ-45 cable from our Comcast modem to provide an Airport Ethernet LAN throughout our house. This Airport base station has three Ethernet ports along one edge; the femtocell is connected into one of those with an RJ-45 cable.

I believe the instruction sheet (temporarily mislaid) says you can take the unit with you anywhere away from home and connect to an Ethernet connection anywhere you can find one.

Comcast gives us typically a 10 to 20 MB Internet connection. Users guide for the femtocell claims it should work OK with a 300 to 400 KB DSL connection.

2) No setup, no technician, just took it out of the box, connected wall wart power adapter and RF-45 cable to the Airport router, and it started working within a couple of minutes. I can't comment on audio quality (other than that it certainly seems quite OK); the signal level we get from the nearest real Verizon tower is so weak that our cellphones are more or less unusable without the femtocell.
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Any 'net connection with adequate bandwidth will work.

No technician, but it does 'assume' some local services running, notably 'DHCP' for the box to get it's local IP address assignment.

This assumption _is_ a reasonably safe guess for virtually all contemporary home service.

Reply to
Robert Bonomi

A voice connection doesn't require much bandwidth, so it should work with just about any wired or fixed wireless broadband service, but voice connections are very sensitive to latency, and whether you have

256 kilobits per second or 10 megabits per second, one poorly configured BitTorrent client might render your calls intolerable... ***** Moderator's Note *****


Bill Horne

Reply to
Geoffrey Welsh

Unless the underlying IP infrastructure has more than adequate capacity or gives priority to voice traffic, other high demand traffic can saturate a node and delay the voice packets.

-- Regards, David.

David Clayton Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Knowledge is a measure of how many answers you have, intelligence is a measure of how many questions you have.

Reply to
David Clayton

Voice traffic is normally symmetric (OK, with cellular maybe you get some silence suppression part of the time).

So, what matters is the slwest traffic stream - upstream on a typical ADSL or cable broadband link.

The voice is sensitive to jitter and packet loss.

Conventional G.711 / G.729 voice used with IP telephony jitter usually has a hard limit much lower than for typicl data traffic (well below

100 mSec).

ITU recommendation is packet loss below 1%.

Any sugnificant contention on a home link with no priority for voice is going to trash those numbers.....

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