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Sprint will be launching a 3G femtocell, a mini cell phone tower like device that helps you get a better voice and data signal in your home or office. It will be a faster version of the wireless carrier’s 2G Airave product, according to documents filed with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission. The new Sprint femtocell will include a radio for the 3G service and a port for a VoIP (voice-over-IP) line.

A release date for the new femtocell is unknown, but expected very soon considering the FCC filing. It may cost the same $100 as the current product, and is also likely to carry a $5 monthly fee. When users make calls connected to the Airave, however, the time spent won't count towards plan minutes.

Sprint’s launch comes after AT&T announced its 3G AT&T MicroCell for $150 (+$20 per month) and just as a new study indicates the femtocells could proliferate in the next few years.

A femtocell operates like your personal mini cell phone tower. You connect the router-like device to your existing broadband landline service (cable or fiber) and it provides better indoor coverage for your phone. Sprint, who has reportedly partnered with Femtocell manufacturer Airvana to deliver the new product.

Airave, their $100 femtocell device made by Samsung, has been available nationwide since August 2008. However, Airave doesn’t support 3G - merely Sprint’s CDMA network with speeds of about 150 kilobits per second. Verizon’s solution, the $250 Wireless Network Expander, uses the same network as is only 2G as well.

Femtocells could help numerous customers with coverage issues when it comes to phone calls, but most require an additional monthly fee of $5-$20 per month. In addition, vendors such as Ubiquisys recently announced that the wholesale price of a femtocell has dropped to below $100.

Its usefulness is less obvious when it comes to data transfer, since most customers who own broadband lines already use the much-faster Wi-Fi at home.

Related posts: Sprint Service Plans and Coverage Review

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