Telstra CTO says femtocells are a dumb idea, and an admission that your network sucks

Femtocells are awesome … on paper. You get this little box, connect it to your wired broadband connection, and now you’ve got a little base station in your home giving you a strong signal where you might not have otherwise had any. Telstra Chief Technology Officer Hugh Bradlow on the other hand says: “Femtocells — I usually classify these in the dumb-idea-of-the-week category. I struggle to see the benefit.” Later adding that femtocells are “an admission of defeat” by operators. We see his point. If you’re an operator and you offer customers a box that’s meant to fix a problem that shouldn’t be there in the first place, you really are sticking yourself in a corner. Personally, it’s all about the business model for me. Operators like AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile offer femtocells and have the nerve to charge you not only an upfront fee, but also an additional monthly charge. With every operator screaming about how their networks are being pushed to the limit, you’d think they’d be handing out femtos like candy so people can use them instead of killing the base station near their home.

Speaking about capacity, Telstra was one of, if not the, first operators to launch a 42 Mbps HSPA+ network. Hugh says that they’ve been testing LTE and that it offers an improvement of 30% to 60% in capacity, but he’d rather have more spectrum. Again, that makes sense since LTE infrastructure is so new that it’s going to be expensive compared to what’s already on the market. He also believes that traffic management and enabling quality of service features are going to be critically important going forward, but that’s just another way of saying “net neutrality is lame, we want to give some services a faster pipe than others”.

All we know is this, customers are willing to give up speed for coverage. No matter how quick your download speeds are, if you have to stand in the corner of your apartment, wearing your lucky socks, and have a spoon in your left pocket, just to watch 1080p YouTube videos, then there’s a problem.

  • James McP

    My god, a mobile network operator who Gets It. If Telestra operated in my market I’d be there in a heartbeat just to help pay his salary.

    I never got it. I mean, shouldn’t the carrier give YOU a kick back for the data carried by the femto cell since it uses broadband you probably contracted from a different provider and doesn’t traverse their network? Why in the name of lunacy should any sane person pay for the privilege of NOT using the service they are paying for?

    • The only charge I think carriers have any right to charge with regards to femtocell is for Unlimited Minutes. Like T-Mobile used to charge $9.99 for unlimited minutes used over wifi (did not take out of bucket) but they stopped that plan. Sprint still offers the same plan, but its over their Airave device (which now requires a 2year agreement and additional line of service AND a $5 per month access fee on top) – so it seems with the way carriers DONT want people to have these devices, and how they charge for minutes, they want people to continue to bog down their networks. I have no problem using up gigs and gigs of data per month and calling conference lines all day and night either.

  • Chris

    Femtocells are an interesting topic as you get into situations where you have to ask yourself where do you draw the line on running network equipment in your own house on your own services. A telco could easily require every one of its customers to have a femtocell in their own home, which then channels all call traffic over their broadband connection and just make the broadcast power from each cell higher than what is needed to cover that specific property, the net effect being that instead of needing to have cell towers every couple of miles to cover a given area and needing to pay the site lease costs, power costs, and in many cases local council rates, as well as the costs associated with having your own national network for connecting all cell towers to the main mobile switching center, power would be supplied by each resident, traffic would be routed over the residents internet connection, thus eliminating the need for a national network, and should the customer base increase sufficiently the need for towers would lessen and lessen due to the number of femtocells in the area, the end result being lower overheads for the telco but not necessarily lower costs for the consumer.

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