Wednesday, July 02, 2008

US Market Heats Up

If the rumors are true, things in the home zone market are about to get very interesting in the US.

Yesterday, there was a flurry of rumors that Sprint will launch their femtocell-based Airave service nationwide July 15th. The service has been in limited commercial trial for more than 6 months in the US.

Market watchers (like me) like to compare the service offers. According to the rumors Sprint will offer the Airave femtocell to subscribers for an upfront fee of $99 and $15/month (or $30/month for families). In return consumers get unlimited nationwide calling when attached to the femtocell, and improved coverage.

T-Mobile’s Wi-Fi based offer, HotSpot @Home, lets consumers use Wi-Fi access points already in the home or get new ‘optimized’ Wi-Fi routers from T-Mobile, which are free with a two year contract. Consumers can use Wi-Fi to improve coverage for their existing mobile plan. Or for an additional $10/month ($20/mos for families), subscribers can an add unlimited nationwide calling option when attached to Wi-Fi.

Interestingly, in a video interview from the Avren femtocell conference, Lauren Town, head of marketing at Orange for Wi-Fi-based home service Unik, noted that the value proposition articulated for femtocell home zones during the conference was nearly identical to their existing service.

It’s not clear if Sprint’s rate will come down to $10/month to match the T-Mobile offer. One clear advantage is that Sprint’s femtocell is 1xRTT (or ‘2G’ in CDMA parlance), which means that it will work with the entire installed base of Sprint handsets. T-Mobile's advantage? The service works on Wi-Fi anywhere in the world (enterprise, outside US,...) rather than just one femtocell.

Like many new offers, Sprint service has faced some growing pains during the initial trial phase. Presumably these issues have been worked out.

If anything, the pressure is increasing for AT&T and Verizon. Neither company has a ‘home zone’ offer, which means neither company has the ability to create a location specific service offer like ‘unlimited flat rate calling from home’.

PS – I just noticed this. The address used to be But that address now redirects to Hummm…

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