Wednesday, August 13, 2008

No Signal - How About Your Own Mini-Cell Tower

The original Sprint logo was used from 1989 to...Image via Wikipedia
Gordon Snyder has been telling me for some time about the concept of a femtocell. From wikipedia - a femotocell is
a small cellular base station, typically designed for use in residential or small business environments. It connects to the service provider’s network via broadband (such as DSL or cable); current designs typically support 2 to 5 mobile phones in a residential setting. A femtocell allows service providers to extend service coverage indoors, especially where access would otherwise be limited or unavailable.
Here's a review of a femtocell from Engadget Mobile. If you have weak signal in your office or home, this may be a great alternative. This also has potential as a teaching tool, as most wireless course don't have access to a cell tower. Sprint AIRAVE review - Engadget Mobile
The long-awaited CDMA femtocell (once dubbed the Samsung Ubicell) essentially acts as a super in-house signal booster, or, if you'd prefer, a mini Sprint tower sitting right beside your router. If the concept is ringing a bell, it's because you've certainly seen a similar setup with T-Mobile's @Home service. So, the real question here is can the AIRAVE really help your reception? And more importantly, is it worth the extra coin? Read on to find out.
The box itself is no bigger than most home routers, it's lightweight, and it can be stored horizontally or vertically. 'Round back, you'll find an Ethernet jack, a GPS socket, an AC connector and an On / Off switch. After running overnight, the device was still rather cool to the touch, so there's no worry of it melting anything that's sure to sandwich it in your already cramped desk.

And yeah, about that GPS port. Much to our dismay, the AIRAVE requires that a GPS lock is found before it begins operating, and it requires that said lock puts you within the United States of America.

Furthermore, Sprint claims that this unit is all ready to support multiple callers, and while that is indeed true, the actual bandwidth requirements are a touch harder to come by. For a single call, you need at least 40Kbps up and down in order to not break up, while 2 callers needs twice that and 3 callers thrice. If a fourth or fifth caller attempts to tap into the AIRAVE while a trio of calls are already underway, those mobiles will be directed to the nearest cell tower. Should one of the original three hang up, however, the "next in line" will hop onto the vacant AIRAVE slot.

We tested the unit in a home with notoriously awful Sprint coverage -- we're talking 0 to 1 bars, flashing in and out of roaming / Sprint service depending on how the wind blows. We used a certain Sprint handset in this domicile for a solid month and dropped countless calls and could barely hear when connected unless we waltzed over to "that spot by the window" and remained there for the duration of the conversation.
our signal strength indicator shot up from 1 bar to 5 bars immediately after the AIRAVE was finished with its lengthy boot-up process. We walked around to various nooks and crannies and never saw the bars dip below 3. Remember folks, this is all happening in a house that never saw 3 bars of Sprint service prior to the AIRAVE being powered on. Upon dialing our first test subject, we heard a brief double beep just before the ringing began to let us know that the call was being funneled through the AIRAVE.

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1 comment:

Mark Viquesney said...

This will be good for my in-laws house. Their house is the house of no signal (no matter which carrier). Of course, it depends on how much Sprint wants to charge to boost reception when they should be just selling it at cost (or giving to the people who have problem spots) to keep their customer happy about having enough bars.


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