Before I start I would like to clarify that this is my blog and that what I write here are not announcements unless I say so. Having said this I would like to share with you what I have been thinking a lot about Femtocells, especially now that I am in the Hamptons where coverage is so poor and need one. What are Femtocells? Femtocells are like Foneras that operate with 3G or any other mobile technology. As most of you know a Fonera is a Fon WiFi router that is connected to the internet and sends out two WiFi signals a private one that is WPA encrypted, bandwidth protected and gives most of the bandwidth to the Fonero (the member of the Fon movement who shares some of his WiFi with people who share with him/her) and the other one is public, it´s protected by username and password and is available for others who are nearby. Now the same concept can be used for Femtofoneros. For this Fon needs to have an agreement say with Vodafone, AT&T Wireless, Orange, or others. In my home in Madrid for example I had poor coverage and Vodafone installed a Femto cell in my roof. So I got coverage and so did people who are near my home. In my farm in Sagaponack where I am now there´s poor coverage from Verizon, T Mobile and AT&T. I did research on this and the reason why there´s poor coverage is that people in the Hamptons think that GSM antennas are both harmful and ugly. But this problem could very easily be solved if Foneros or Femtofoneros would volunteer to have Femto cells connected to their cable or ADSL networks and provide coverage for themselves and others in the area. In my view if cell phone companies were willing to give free cellular service to Femtofoneros they would solve their problem of coverage. Especially if Femto cells are not meshed but their signal sent into Cable or DSL networks as the biggest problem of mobile operators is bandwidth scarcity. Fon now has 450K people around the world registered as Foneros and around 200K with Foneras. While I don´t know how many cell phone antennas are there in the world my guess, is that there are probably around the same number of cell antennas as there are registered foneros in the world. While Fon has had problems transforming all registered Foneros into active foneros and some have disconnected the Fonera because they failed to connect others and see an immediate benefit I think this would be less likely if Foneras gave out both WiFi signal for devices such as Nintendo DS, PSPs and Sansa Connects and 3G signal for voice communications. At Fon we are researching extending the concept of Fon with WiFi to Fon with 3G and WiFi and I think that this may very well become standard for Fon in the future. Our investors at Google seem to agree as they invested $25 million yesterday in Ubiquisys.

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Marco on July 21, 2007  · 

so FON is piggybacked on femtocells… what a nice idea! more than 36 millions of femtocells are expected to be installed in the upcoming years… so FON would spread automatically…

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Marco on July 21, 2007  · 

so become a member of ASAP 🙂

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Sergio Fogel on July 21, 2007  · 

How about installing a Verizon femtocell in Spain (forget regulation for a while)? Or, for that matter, FON could be a registered 3G operator in some country. When I get into the coverage area of a FON Femtocell, my mobile thinks that I am roaming. There is a potentially huge revenue source there. That is, of course, until regulation comes into place. But should they? What is the signal strength threshold when regulators start to intervene?

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Charbax on July 22, 2007  · 

I asked at GigaOM if it was possible to do this Femtocell with WiMAX on the 700mhz band that Google just bid for:

But I didn’t get any answer.. I also asked about this in the FON forum during the past year, and I asked WiMAX equipment manufacturers if it could be done.

Can it be done? Could you build the WiMAX network for Google in the USA? By simply installing thousands of Fonero 3.0s in peoples homes that broadcast 700mhz WiMAX and normal WiFi?

Google’s 700mhz sounds better as it would be all about free open wireless broadband, and stuff.. As I posted on GigaOM, I wonder what’s going on in Europe with that precious 700mhz band. All european countries seem to be phasing out analog terrestrial TV and all are replacing it with DVB-T, so I wonder, what will the 700mhz UHF band be used for in Europe?

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Pierre Marissal on July 23, 2007  · 

Hello Martin
Look at that strange 3G-Wifi router designed in Korea.
Sorry, the text is in french

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Martin Varsavsky on July 23, 2007  · 


They would probably not allow this to work

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Christian von der Ropp on July 24, 2007  · 

The femto cell is a very interesting idea, I also had earlier (see: However things are complicated regarding licensing, as FON would need a priceless 3G license (if there’s frequency spectrum available at all) or would become highly dependant on national network operators. But before this could become reality, multi-mode phones will come, that are capable of GSM, 3G, WiFi and WiMAX. Such multi-mode chipsets are already under development. The high royalities for 3G-equipment are another issue. WiMAX-femto cells would be way more interesting, as WiMAX operators aim to a quick roll-out of their networks and don’t fear for their revenue like 3G operators do.

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David on November 23, 2007  · 

Martin, how did you get Vodafone to install a femtocell in Spain? Did you pay for it or it was for free? I haven’t found any information in their website


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Martin Varsavsky on November 26, 2007  · 


I got them to do that by reporting that there was no coverage were I lived.

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Jimmy Crackhorns on May 26, 2008  · 

Free does not work,never has never will. People want to pay and get value added features and services. If this network is ever successful it will be bought and then user fees will be put in place. Are international businesspersons so cheap they won’t pay for something? I see no real future in this, but that’s just me. I used to steal MP3’s and now I pay for them via iTunes and feel better about it. Communism is not the way of the future.

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Ivan on July 17, 2008  · 

” In my home in Madrid for example I had poor coverage and Vodafone installed a Femto cell in my roof”

There is no yet any commercial femto available. What Vodafone probably installed at your roof was a repeater.

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