As with regular cellular networks, femtocell towers are expected to handle growing quantities of wireless data. “Increasingly the business case for femtocells has come to be about data, and offering that in a business environment is certainly one of the things we are looking at,” says Roland Guegel, product manager for Sprint’s Airvana-based femtocell product, dubbed Airave, which is currently offered to consumers or small businesses.
When a cell phone or other device is connected to a femtocell it gets dramatically faster wireless data than is possible outdoors. That’s because femtocells are always close to the devices they serve (the distance between a device and its nearest cell tower limits bandwidth). Femtocells also only share out a connection with a handful of devices at once compared to a conventional cell tower, which serves a large area. “You see data throughput that you just won’t see on the network outside,” says Guegel.
That could help support data-hungry devices like tablets as business tools. “Wi-Fi is a good option, but a more ubiquitous reliable cellular network is much better,” says Guegel. “With femtocells you can walk around indoors and out and get good service anywhere.”
Vodafone, the world’s largest wireless provider, which owns a 45 percent stake in Verizon, began offering femtocells this summer to 25,000 companies that had signed up for its Vodafone Office product, which provides a range of business communications tools in the cloud.
Guegel says connecting femtocells with cloud-based business software could create new possibilities. “It’s going to become standard, and there’s the potential to add other applications and services,” he says. “How about when someone walks in the door in the morning , the network spots their phone and they are automatically logged in as being at work, or they get sent an e-mail telling them their tasks for the day?”