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Author Topic: AT&T Femto: Charlie Foxtrot & Possible Strong Product.  (Read 2231 times)
perkiset
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« on: December 01, 2009, 11:56:35 AM »

I have a few clients that want to go iPhone, but have vacation properties in places where there's virtually no service ... but they do have broadband. So I've been investigating the Femto, here's the deal.

After spending a week trying really hard to find anyone intelligent at AT&T (the jury is still out on whether I did or not, but at least I found someone with some answers) I got to a manager of the AT&T store in Mission Valley, SoCal. Turns out that AT&T is doing the rollout of the Femto slowly and in specific areas - which was quite confusing to me at first. The local store, here in Phoenix, told me that it was a marketing test and that the Femto would only route through certain IPs to make sure you were using it in the right test area. This, of course is easily spoofed - so I set out to see if I could purchase one in a test area and simply move it about, perhaps set up a proxy or something.

Turns out that the Femto connects to a local tower via the Internet. It does not go right into AT&T's network, but rather has to connect to the net via a local tower - the Femto is some sort of "chain device." So it's not it's the local IP that's the problem, it's that it's going to try to find a tower close to me, hook up to it and if there isn't one that has been upgraded then I'm SOL. Still seems rather spoofable to me, although I might need a compatriot in the SD area to pull this off. And of course, if one of my clients uses 911 on the Femto the emergency team would be dispatched to the beach LOL.

So I'm frustrated because there is no deployment timetable or map. I also am a little dubious of this technology choice, but we'll have to see.

On the plus side, however, it seems that the rumor mill had the pricing wrong. The FC is outright-purchaseable at 159. If you then use it at home, there is no monthly fee attached. The catch is that your existing cell phone plan's minutes are used against it - so if you have an unlimited plan there's no change at all. But if you have a workday-limited plan (the iPhone stock plan is like this) then your workday minutes will be charged just as they would if you were in the normal network. If, on the other hand, you choose to purchase the $20/month plan, you'll get a $50 discount on the device and your at-home minutes with the cell are now unlimited. That's 4 concurrent users, unlimited minutes that *do not apply to your plan at all* while you are at home. This is their "Get rid of the land line" plan and seems quite reasonable to me.

So although I am thwarted ATM to actually test one, I think eventually this could be a strong offering.
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« Reply #1 on: December 01, 2009, 12:09:51 PM »

wait what?
it just relays to a cell tower???

that can't be right. its got an ethernet connection in it...

So if that tard was giving you correct info, that means that the femtocell does absolutely dickall to improve your connection to the network...

The WHOLE point in femtocells is to connect your cell phone to the network, in an area where THERE IS NO NETWORK. ie, the deadspot bend on the 51 in phoenix. Or, my parents house.

That guy has GOT to be wrong.

hell for $150 it might just be worth a "research purchase".
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perkiset
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« Reply #2 on: December 01, 2009, 12:46:41 PM »

What we went on about, (given this guy is reasonably smart and not just blowing smoke up my ass) is that rather than the choice you and I might have made ie., once you're VOIP go right to the AT&T spine and git the call out, is that the access point for your Femto is the nearest cell. It is all IP over your broadband and doesn't have to be in range at all - it's that they spread the perceived future load against their existing network of POPs (in this case, cell towers) rather than trying to centralize the traffic. In some ways, this makes a lot of sense - distributed connections will keep the need for a centralized pipe for all Femto traffic down. This SHOULD keep service high, because lots of traffic in Manhatten will only burden those POPs rather than the whole nation's. Of course, the downside is that each and every locale must get an access point - and who knows what that will realistically require.

Now it would seem to me that they certainly must have network ready hardware of some type on the towers, since they're piping 3G and they can't possibly be using a proprietary technology (other than TCP/IP) to talk to their equipment at locations, so it's quite possible that this is an "OS Patch" that they'll apply to each cell location that kind of bridges internet based voice traffic onto the real voice network. Or sumthin. That would make the most sense, but this is AT&T we're talking about here.

The question to me is, just how GeoIP based are these little cells? If (as they tell me I'll be able to do) they can be picked up and carted to another area in the future, so long as (that area) supports Femto, then what DB are they using for Femtos in (my area) to connect to (which towers)? That's where I think a spoof could be executed and a test could happen ... but ATM I am not ready to give it any time.

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« Reply #3 on: December 01, 2009, 12:51:35 PM »

This all sounds unnecessarily complicated, and quite counterintuitive. My bet is that the rationale is the same as it is for 99% of AT&T's decisions, which is restricting the ability to compete and keeping a pseudo-shroud around the technology they're using.
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perkiset
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« Reply #4 on: December 01, 2009, 12:55:17 PM »

This could also be, however I sense a shred of truth, since they are so underwater with iPhone traffic as it is - imagine all the people that might make the leap if they had strong AT&T service and they don't execute a real plan this time?

Cripes, their customer satisfaction rating is just about the bottom of the pack already - they really need at least a single or a double here, if not a home run. And bear in mind that this will increase usage by all other phones and smartphones as well ... although I'm frustrated that it's not available, perhaps they are really doing the leg and elbow work to make this successful.

Well, one can hope.
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« Reply #5 on: December 01, 2009, 12:58:20 PM »

>is just about the bottom of the pack already

is just about the bottom of the pack already


AT&T Ranked Last in Consumer Reportsí Best Cellphone Service Survey

http://digitaldaily.allthingsd.com/20091201/att-ranked-last-in-consumer-reports-best-cell-phone-service-survey/
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