O2 plans ahead for 3G iPhone

O2 is planning the UK’s largest trial of femtocell technology, in a bid to take an early lead in the market for services that connect mobile phones to broadband networks.

O2 plans ahead for 3G iPhone

Together with NEC, O2 will begin testing femtocell devices in around 500 homes this month, ahead of a commercial launch planned for 2009.

Identified by PC Pro as one of Ten techs to watch in 2008, femtocells are wireless routers that allow you to connect a 3G phone to your local network and broadband router.

Not only will this provide cheaper access to data services and internet telephony (VoIP) it could also accelerate the take up of 3G phones, which often don’t perform well indoors.

O2 has hinted that the femtocell test is linked to the expected unveiling of a 3G version of Apple’s iPhone, for which O2 has the exclusive UK rights.

“Our Apple iPhone is already driving unheard-of levels of mobile internet usage, and the introduction of flat-rate data tariffs is expected to increase this further,” says Vivek Dev, chief operating officer of Telefonica O2 Europe.

“Both of these place huge capacity demands on our networks, and because so much of that usage is at home, femtocells coupled with DSL (broadband) could provide an alternative capacity resource.”

All-in-one boxes

While O2’s femtocells may not be ready for a year, Netgear has stayed true to its promise and begun shipping its first Femtocell Voice Gateway which combines an ADSL2+ modem, router, 10/100 wired LAN switch, 802.11g wireless access point, Voice over-IP (VoIP) and 3G in a single box.

The femtocell provides a plug-and-play 3G access point that uses a mobile subscriber’s broadband connection to transport voice and data calls from the phone using a range of standards-based interfaces, Netgear explains.

“We are able to provide operators with a device that not only delivers high quality cellular phone coverage throughout the home and small office, but also enables consumers to access and enjoy a range of home networking services via existing 3G handsets,” claims David James, Netgear’s director of product marketing for service provider markets.

Netgear will unveil the gateway at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week.

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