Overland Park, Kan. — Sprint Nextel plans nationwide availability on Aug. 17 of an in-home cellular base station that will improve in-home cellular reception for consumers who use their Sprint CDMA phones as their main phone.
The book-size unit, called a femtocell, has been available to consumers in Denver, Indianapolis and Nashville since last fall under a trial program. The Samsung-made device, called Airave by Sprint, will be available only through Sprint-operated stores for $99.99.
Sprint said it is the first carrier in the world to offer femtocells commercially.
The femtocell communicates with any registered Sprint CDMA phone over cellular airwaves within 5,000 square feet, then routes the conversation over a connected broadband modem. When a subscribers walks out of femtocell range during a conversation, the call is handed off to Sprint’s cellular towers. The device is said to be ready-to-use out of the box, requiring no changes in settings by the consumer.
To use the femtocell service, consumers must pay $4.99/month per phone on top of their regular voice plan. At that price, minutes spent talking on the phone via the femtocell count toward a plan’s regular wireless minutes. Consumers whose plans include unlimited nights and weekends starting at 7 p.m. also get unlimited Airave calling during those times. Likewise, consumers with unlimited mobile-to-mobile calls to and from other Sprint subscribers likewise get unlimited Airave calling to other Sprint cellular subscribers. In addition, Sprint subscribers whose plans allow for unlimited calling at all times get to make unlimited Airave calls all the time.
Sprint subscribers whose regular plan doesn’t include unlimited voice calls can pay an additional $10/month per phone on top of the initial $4.99/month charge to add unlimited Airave calling at all times. For additional $20/month, consumers can add unlimited Airave calling to a family plan.
Unlike the T-Mobile@Home landline-replacement service, Sprint’s solution doesn’t require the purchase of a Wi-Fi-equipped cellphone. T-Mobile’s service can be used only with one of eight Wi-Fi/cellular phones available from the carrier, whereas Sprint’s service can be used with any existing Sprint CDMA phone registered by the consumer for use with the service. Sprint also contends its solution is more reliable and less prone to interference than Wi-Fi-based solutions, but T-Mobile’s Wi-Fi-based service lets users place calls through T-Mobile’s public Wi-Fi hot spots. T-Mobile’s HotSpot@Home service costs $10/month on top of a cellular voice plan, and the price includes unlimited Wi-Fi calling.