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Carrier Network Operations (Tail) vs. Marketing (Dog)
Top 10 Reasons Why Network Operations Don't Like Femtocells

I cannot tell you how many times I have heard carriers give the poor excuse that the mini base stations aka femtocells are too costly and expensive for consumers.   In my opinion its a horrible excuse and here are 10 reasons why.  Marketing 101 class in business school always preaches, go to market with a with high price point and then lower it to reach the masses (ie. iPhone).  I know many people that live in high end homes in Southern California that have expensive things and yet have zero coverage at their home. You are telling me that they wouldn't be willing to spend $200 or $10 per month a service like this?  Bogus comments from ivory  tower executives who are simply puppets to their internal politics.

Carriers have barely even tried testing price points for femtocells in U.S. and I believe the "tail is waging the dog" internally at these wireless operators.  What do I mean by this?  Marketing teams are constantly saying I can't sell phones in Palos Verdes, CA because we don't have good coverage there.  Network operations people are saying I can't handle a fire house of new mini base stations to manage on the network.  Who is right and who will win.  Apparently, Vodafone seems to be the first carrier that has cracked the internal marketing politics and are starting to push the products not without resistance however.

Top 10 Reasons Why Carrier Network Operations Don't Like Femtocells:  

1)  Carriers are lazy and don't want radical change to their networks
2)  Network operations folks don't know how to handle thousands of additional nodes
3)  Wi-Fi offloading is cheaper and less reliable
4)  Fear of another iPhone like mistake underestimating demand
5)  Fear additional customer service issues
6)  Who ever owns the fixed broadband line into the home (cable) wins
7)  Wire line broadband companies like Cox, Comcast & Time Warner have control
8)  Admitting deficiencies in the network is against the culture
9)  Fear of legal liability or class action using their own coverage maps as leverage
10)  Technical interference issues with base stations too close together in neighborhoods

So far carriers that are considering femtocells are:  Vodafone UK, AT&T (trials), Verizon (must pull teeth to get one). See Vodafone Sure Signal UK promotion and reportedly gaining some success with its ‘Sure Signal' femtocell product (albeit after a disastrous launch).  Orange and T-Mobile have both stated a preference for Wi-Fi could see the operator community split along technology lines for in-building coverage.  We speculate that a Vodafone & Verizon merger would be great for its US customers who want iPhones and 3G femtocells embedded in FIOS.

Not considering femtocells are:  Orange, Deutsche Telekom, (T-Mobile) Good article to read here as well: Femtocells remain too expensive, claims Orange VP

Wilson's Cell Phone Signal Booster a Finalist for 2010 'Mark of Excellence Award'

Wilson's MobilePro Signal Booster a Candidate for 'Wireless Product of the Year' 

St. George, Utah - Feb. 25, 2010- Wilson Electronics, manufacturer of North America's top-selling line of cell phone signal boosters, announced that the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)® named the MobilePro signal booster one of only four finalists for Wireless Product of the Year in the association's 2010 Mark of Excellence Awards.

The MobilePro from Wilson Electronics (Wilson) is being considered for the award along with:
· The TPMC-3X Isys i/O® Handheld WiFi Touchpanel from Crestron Electronics, Inc.
· The LG Electronics Network Blu-ray Disc Player from LG Electronics
· The Voyager Pro UC by Plantronics

For a complete list of all 2010 Mark of Excellence Awards categories and finalists, visit

"The Wilson MobilePro is unique among cell phone signal boosters," said Joe Banos, COO of Wilson Electronics. "It's easily movable from home to vehicle and back to the home, and boosts your cellular signal by about 15 times. We're honored that the Consumer Electronics Association has recognized the MobilePro as a finalist for the 2010 Mark of Excellence Awards Wireless Product of the Year."

CEA's Mark of Excellence Awards honor excellence in innovation and achievement in custom home electronics products, services and installation technologies. Award entries are submitted in Supplier and Systems Integrators categories and reviewed by a panel of industry experts. Each category will feature a platinum and gold level award in recognition of outstanding industry achievement.

The Mark of Excellence Awards are presented by CEA through the association's TechHome Division. Winners will be announced at a reception March 26, during the eleventh annual Electronic House Expo (EHX) in Orlando, Fla.

About Wilson Electronics, Inc.
Wilson Electronics, Inc., a leader in the wireless communications industry for more than 40 years, designs and manufactures a wide variety of cell phone signal boosters, antennas and related components that significantly improve cellular communications for both mobile and in-building situations. All Wilson products are engineered, assembled and tested in the company's U.S.-based headquarters. Wilson amplifiers fully comply with FCC regulations for cellular devices and are FCC and Industry Canada type accepted. Wilson Electronics has developed and patented microprocessor-controlled amplifier technology, which protects cell sites by preventing network interference from oscillation and/or cell site overload. For more information, visit www.wilsonelectronics.com.

About CEA
The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) is the preeminent trade association promoting growth in the $165 billion U.S. consumer electronics industry. More than 2,000 companies enjoy the benefits of CEA membership, including legislative advocacy, market research, technical training and education, industry promotion, standards development and the fostering of business and strategic relationships. CEA also sponsors and manages the International CES - Where Entertainment, Technology and Business Converge. All profits from CES are reinvested into CEA's industry services. Find CEA online at www.CE.org.

About EHX
Electronic House Expo, a Tradeshow Week magazine Fastest 50 event for five years running, is the fastest growing trade event of the $13 billion custom electronics industry. Held annually and sponsored by CEA's TechHome Division, EHX attracts a large and dynamic audience of custom electronics integrators, retailers and allied trades to interact with leading suppliers of audio/video entertainment, digital convergence, networking and communications, comfort and control, and security and electrical products. For more information, visit www.ehxweb.com.


We are huge fans of the fact that Vodafone will start advertising femtocells.  Its impressive to see Vodafone stepping up and taking the industry lead educating consumers about the new products to consumers in the UK using the brand Sure Signal.  Vodafone's Sure Signal guarantees you a great 3G signal at home, no matter where you live and promotes the fact it might be an emergency risk if you are living in a coverage hole.  This is something the U.S. carriers have tried their hardest to ignore.  See their promotions and web site above and watch the stories of people from around the UK who have been rescued from their mobile signal problems.  I am quite proud of a carrier finally admitting that they have coverage holes and giving consumers the ability to do something about it.  Kudos to Vodafone UK!

It will remain to be seen if the U.S. carriers still want to "blow smoke" up our asses with their ridiculous commercials touting their great coverage.  AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint & T-Mobile have been dragging their feet for years "testing" femtocells in the U.S. and not educating their customers that they actually exist.  It also amazes me that Vodafone owns 45% of Verizon in the US yet it seems so against Verizon's arrogant culture to admit they actually have coverage problems with their network.  Do you think Verizon's marketing executives who came up with their moronic coverage map promotion commercials are going to be able to keep their jobs or are they going to have to do an "About-Face" (look in opposite direction) if they start selling femtocells in the U.S.?  Hmmmm . . . we shall see.

As a result of Vodafone's leadership Deadzones.co.uk has launched a new "Consumer Generated Mobile Blackspots Map" asking where mobile customers don't have problem areas indoors and outdoors.   Even if Sure Signal can solve the problem indoors at your home or office there are still many bad patch locations around the UK.  We ask for users to contribute pins in our map for 3, O2, Orange, T-Mobile and Vodafone. Please also see this UK Blackspots Facebook discussion board we started under Vodafone's profile. 

Where Is Spectrum Underutilized and Who Owns The Local License?  

Reallocating spectrum is a difficult problem to solve and the carriers want the issue to stay complex as long as they can so nothing will get done and they can maintain the monopolistic market positions. There is a BIG  problem with US government allocation and the FCC when you compare us to Europe.  For example, Germany has 5 times more spectrum and 1/3 as many users than the US.  Something is wrong here and I suspect there are some fat cat companies which big bank accounts sitting on spectrum to corner the marketplace.  Is it a pricing issue going forward or an allocation issue.  The term auction for spectrum just doesn't seem like the best method if you have the consumers best interest in mind. 

Ironically it doesn't take a genius to understand where reallocation of spectrum is needed based on our map of US dead zones.  Also, it was recently explained to me that only 25% of the United States land mass actually has cellular coverage.   So there is lots of opportunity regionally for entrepreneurs to take advantage of an allocation system that is broken if the government can simply get out of the way. 

People Don’t Seek Solutions Unless There Are Problems!

Comments on the RCR Wireless Article FCC to address cellphone boosters, jammers and is the FCC losing its' authority and credibility based on this court ruling?

The Federal Communications Commission is considering implementing a law that would make cellphone boosters illegal unless they are deployed by a wireless operator (DCZ:  Wireless operates hate signal boosters b/c they are not under their control)  or with the consent of a wireless operator, a move that could impact thousands of end users already owning such devices.  (DCZ:  What problem are they trying to solve that the network operators have not dealt with for years?)

The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking before the FCC addresses an ongoing controversy within the wireless industry and could impact devices like MagicJack (DCZ: this product is not a booster its VoIP.  However, they have a product called FemtoJack under development) and other femtocell solutions, as well as local and state governments that want to be able to use cellphone jammers to prevent prisoners from unauthorized use of cellphones. (DCZ:  Or schools who want their kids paying attention to the teacher)  Depending on whose argument you believe, the eventual ruling could even have an impact on net neutrality rules.  (DCZ:  I don't see how this applies to Net Neutrality)  One proponent of signal boosters and jammers said that making boosters illegal won’t address the products already in the market, nor will it stop the sale of signal boosters.  (DCZ:  There are a handful of big companies and thousands of people employed by them with hundreds of thousands of devices already on the market.)

Wireless industry trade association CTIA in 2007 filed a petition for declaratory ruling at the FCC, asking that it outlaw the sale and use of any device that can enhance or impair cellphone calls. (DCZ:  Might have worked under the previous corrupt Bush Administration)  The petition was a surprise to some third-party retailers, who called RCR Wireless News at the time and thought the story had to be wrong. Therein lies the crux of the problem: a cellphone booster can enhance coverage for a customer, but also has the potential to interfere with someone else’s signal (DCZ:  How often and how can they prove this?). Yet, cellphone boosters have been marketed to carriers and end users alike as a way to improve the cellular signal in areas where coverage is less than satisfactory – and the reality remains that cellphone coverage in some locations is spotty.  (DCZ:  Carriers need to get their act together with Femtocells first before they decide to outlaw something like this. Signal boosters provide a lot of value in the car.)

The FCC’s definition of signal boosters is fairly broad as it includes amplifiers, repeaters, boosters, Distributed Antenna Systems and in-building radiation systems that enhance CMRS signals or Part 90 signals. CTIA is asking that the commission rule that companies must have an FCC license to operate a signal booster or have the consent from an FCC licensee (i.e., operator), and that the sale and marketing of devices to unauthorized parties (i.e., end users or commercial building owners) is illegal.

CTIA also says that wireless microphones, jammers and new products like the MagicJack femtocell device also are threats to the network.  (DCZ:  What happened to letting entrepreneurs create technology to help the industry progress?)

“Unlike wireless handsets, which are under the control of the wireless licensee’s base station, signal boosters cannot be controlled by wireless licensees. However, it is clear that the commission’s rules require carriers to control and govern the use of signal boosters and amplifiers. In fact, this control contemplated in the commission’s rules exists for very good reasons. Signal boosters, because they are not controlled by the base station, do not operate at the lowest possible power. Rather, these devices are intended to operate at much higher power, which raises the noise floor, harming spectrum efficiency and causing interference that leads to degraded or dropped calls unless the devices are properly installed and overseen by the carrier,” CTIA said in comments on the NPRM.

“To address the harm caused by unauthorized signal booster operation, the commission must affirm its existing requirements, which prohibit the sale or marketing of signal boosters to unauthorized users. Currently, many manufacturers and retailers market and sell these products to end users with the knowledge that these devices do not and cannot comply with the commission’s licensing and interference control obligations. Under FCC rules, the use of signal boosters is only permitted by licensees or parties authorized by licensees. However, illicit sale and operation of these devices will continue to proliferate – and will be impossible to effectively enforce – if the commission does not take prompt action to affirm these requirements.”

Not everyone agrees. Howard Melamed, CEO of CellAntenna, said a blanket “make them illegal” mandate doesn’t solve the problem. It will just force end users in need of a solution to buy products overseas. “People don’t go out seeking a solution unless there is a problem.”

Howard said some of his clients are hospitals that have needed coverage but not been able to get satisfactory coverage from the carrier. Instead of a blanket mandate, the FCC should force signal-booster manufacturers to tighten the design specifications. He’s also advocated that a registry be created where people can register their signal booster with the FCC so in the event the signal booster is affecting the network, the carrier can know who or what is causing the problem. Melamed also joked in an interview with RCR Wireless News that he is a “persona non grata” within the wireless carrier community.

Wilson Electronics in its filing with the FCC argued that mobile amplifiers should not be subject to the same rules as larger, traditional fixed power boosters. Wilson also said the mobile boosters, designed for personal use in a car, for example, are an example of net neutrality initiatives at the FCC that are designed to allow any device to attach to the network.

CTIA disagrees with that assessment, as well as comments filed by The DAS Forum that recommend a code of conduct be followed, rather than more regulation.

Both CTIA and Howard agree that poor-quality boosters can cause problems. But Howard argues that not allowing U.S. companies to sell boosters that meet FCC certification standards will only lead people and businesses to buy poorer quality boosters overseas. Signal boosters are sold throughout the rest of the world, he said; the controversy only is occurring in North America.  (DCZ:  Pointing the finger in the wrong direction)

Jammer issues

But cellphone boosters are only half of the FCC’s notice of proposed rulemaking. The commission is also reviewing the sale of cellphone jammers, which block signals. Jammers can only be sold to federal authorities under the way the law reads today. Melamed argues that state and local authorities need to be able to use jammers, especially in a society when cellphones are used to remotely detonate bombs and are the No. 1 device illegally snuck into prisons. However, the FCC may not be the final authority on the use of cellphone jammers at the local and state levels. The Senate in October passed the Safe Prison Act, which allows the director of the federal bureau of prisons or the CEO of a state to seek FCC approval to deploy cellphone jammers in their jurisdictions to block wireless coverage in correctional facilities.

An RV (aka Recreational Vehicle) on the move can have significant cell phone coverage problems depending on the location its traveling in. A good way to minimize dropped calls and increase reception to cellular phones / broadband data cards is to install a Cellular Repeater Kit on the roof. A Cellular Repeater Kit will allow you to make calls when very little cell phone signal exists or one or two bars. This booster will also reduce dropped calls and increase internet speeds. We have heard of lots of success stories with Wilson Electronics Repeater kits customized for use in Motorhomes & RVs. Wilson Electronics is well regarded in the industry because of their high quality.

Cell Phone Boosters or Repeaters are very simple to setup and they do not require expert installation. A Repeater kit consists of 3 major components; an external antenna, an amplifier or booster and an internal antenna that gives cellular coverage inside the RV.  Kits can range from $300 Single Pohne Booster for a single-phone style amp to $600 Multiple Phone Booster for a more powerful amp that can support multiple cell phones and/or broadband data cards.

 few of these kits are listed below for a Single Cell phone and Multiple Cell Phones or Data Card:

10 Year Stock Charts for AT&T & Verizon showing -50% Returns

Have you ever had a Carl Icahn moment while following a mismanaged company and say "I Can Do Better"?  Carl Icahn is infamous for hostile shareholder takeovers of companies he believes where management is not creating shareholder value and I think an opportunity is slowing emerging right before our eyes.  My "aha moment" came this fall when I first saw the Verizon ads touting how wonderful their cell 3G phone coverage map is compared to AT&T.  AT&T stupidly responded by suing them for false advertising and lost.  If I had a billion dollar checkbook some shareholder support we could do some serious industry damage and salvage what could be two dieing giant super powers.  

It makes me nauseated to see billions of dollars wasted marketing "coverage maps lies" to consumers that no one actually believes.  Both companies are guilty of ridiculous advertising campaigns like "There's a Map for That" and the old school management style is losing credibility quickly with the demands of educated customers.  This is the same old school management that has insulated itself for years with huge layers of bureaucracy in order to keep their high paying jobs.  Have you ever asked yourself why the United States lags way behind the entire world when it comes to wireless innovation while their parent companies have lost a combined $250 billion dollars in shareholder value the last 10 years?

AT&T (T) and Verizon (VZ) both have huge dividend yields of 6.5% per year have lost -50% of their market cap value in the last 10 years.  It appears these cozy senior management teams are highly skilled experts at insulating themselves and keeping their high salary jobs.  Insiders own less than 5% of the stock and every list director makes a salary of more than $1M.  Just to make my point AT&T's Ralph de la Vega makes $1.5M per year stock options and Verizon's Lowell McAdam makes $1.7M + 10m of exercised stock options. Ivan Seidenberg made off with $17.5 million in 2009. Sounds pretty cozy to me when you can just pay off your Board of Directors and shareholders with huge dividends instead of investing adequately in your customers and infrastructure.  Ivan What happened to CEO's like John Chambers who makes $1 salary and is compensated entirely on creating shareholder value.  My perception as an early stage investor for the last 10 years and as an industry outcast is that there is a lot of "cool-aid" becoming drunk by every employee in the telecom industry and its about to change.   How?  Its simple:  Google is developing disruptive technology and advertising business models that AT&T and Verizon can't compete with.

The United States is laughed at around the world for our lack of innovation and I blame this on the stagnation of innovation caused by the two largest bureaucratic giants AT&T (based in Atlanta) and Verizon (based in Dallas).  These two cities are not exactly technology hubs throughout the world and each company has 80,000+ employees each.  It makes me sick to see that the two largest companies who own 66% of the entire US market or 160M+ wireless customers have done virtually nothing to innovate.  Even with AT&T's brilliant move of getting an iPhone exclusive contract and their stock is still flat and can't manage to go up.

Here is what I would do if I had the backing of a private equity group and the "balls" of Carl Icahn.  I would fire the CEO's of each company and the teams responsible for marketing.   I would then invest heavily in femtocell and location based advertising technology (mini cell phone towers for the home or office).   At $100 per unit cost I would give femtocells to half of my customers who had coverage problems and that is about half 40M.  It will cost your roughly $4B and the payback would likely be within one year if advertising was sold in conjunction with it.  At the same time I would buy an advertising company who had location based adverting to help subsidize the cost of the devices. 

I am a stock market technician and do not like what I see on these long term monthly charts as each stock nears the bottom again.  Perhaps their needs to be a management shake up in both companies as companies like Google Voice, Clearwire, Comcast, MetroPCS, Tracfone and Skype start nipping at their heals with disruptive innovation.  I am calling it right here and now that if the stock falls below the 2002 / 2003 lows of $26 on VZ and $19 on T that there will be a shareholder revolt and soon after a management shakeup.  Out of full disclosure I am not short or long the stock.


In the fall of 2009 AT&T sued Verizon over its "There's a Map for That" ads and I think rightfully so.  Ultimately, AT&T lost the case in court but I think because they lacked the insight how to turn the argument back on Verizon to highlight their false advertising.  If I were AT&T I would have simply said "we all have coverage problems and here is exactly where Verizon is lying".  Exhibit A above. The print and television commercials, try to articulate how much theoretical 3G coverage Verizon has from a 50,000 foot level on a red versus blue colored maps of the US.  AT&T's complaint seemed to focus on the choice of the white or blank background in the two different 3G coverage maps, which implies "no coverage", but actually should mean something else in the AT&T map, as there still exist AT&T's 2.5G/EDGE coverage in theory.

At some point consumers will get fed up with Verizon's arrogant campaign and it will come back and bite them in the ass.  There are lots of up-and-coming wireless operators who are hungry like Google, Comcast, Cox, T-Mobile, Sprint that are looking to take advantage of the fact that Verizon can't get seamless coverage into 50% of homes in the US.  My prediction is that karma will get the better of them soon.  "Jump the Shark" is probably the best way to describe their fate.  We think honesty, integrity and transparency with quality coverage will win wireless customers over in the next decade.


After all of the "Can You Hear Me Now Commercials" and "AT&T Coverage Map Bashing"  Verizon Wireless still has incredible amounts of Dead Zones to fill in. You would never know from their misleading commercials but less than 50% of US homes have seamless wireless coverage and could use a femtocell to improve home coverage.  However, in order to improve Verizon's coverage in your home you the customer must pay for your own personal mini cell phone tower at at cost of $249.  Keep in mind Verizon's femtocell is only 2G as well and not 3G currently.   

Sprint was one of the first carriers to launch femtocells with Sprint Airave (awful close to the trademark name Airwave) in 2008, but Verizon was not far behind in bringing femotcells to the masses with a Verzion Wireless Network Extender in January of 2009.  AT&T 3G Microcell is also in trials in North Carolina, Georgia and San Diego and is expected to launch nationwide sometime in the Spring of 2010.  T-Mobile is also in trials with Ubiquisys and Huawei and is expected to launch something this year as well.  The black box will send out a CDMA signal covering up to 5,000 square feet of the home or office with support for up to three simultaneous calls. Like Sprint's solution, the Wireless Network Extender uses GPS to verify that you're not creating little tiny Verizon networks outside the U.S. and plugs into the internet source of your choice via Ethernet. It'll be available in Verizon stores and online for $249.99. Pretty expensive if you ask me and not clear if an additional monthly subscription or long term contract goes with it.  We have only read reviews online that are quite negative about the price but would like to hear from consumer who actually use the product in our comments section below. 





Be aware of the pros and cons with cell reviews allowing you to compare before deciding on a mobile phone purchase.

Related Posts.
Verizon 3G Network Extender Questions?

J.D. Power Confirms The Sky Is Blue for Smartphones

Smartphone users are more likely to experience dropped calls and poor voice quality, according to a new call quality report from J.D. Power and Associates. (DCZ:  Tell us something we don't already know? It drives me crazy to see surveys that provide absolutely no value. JD Power has so much distribution and clout that it is wasting time and money when it could actually be providing value.)

The company's 2010 Wireless Call Quality Performance Study (what 5,000 teenagers?) found that smartphone customers are nearly three times more likely to experience dropped calls than traditional mobile phone customers. They also report that smartphone customers experience problems at a rate that is 6 per 100 calls greater than problems experienced by subscribers using lower-end handsets. (DCZ:  Who, What, Where, When, Why, How?)

"As carriers continue to upgrade network infrastructure, expand coverage areas and improve data speeds, smartphone usage will continue to test network capacity," said Kirk Parsons, senior director of wireless services at J.D. Power and Associates in a statement. "Smartphones will continue to stress wireless networks with higher data usage for texting, e-mailing and Web surfing, so it is crucial for wireless carriers to enhance existing network speed and capacity, as well as to develop and upgrade to next-generation technologies." (DCZ:  Sorry Kirk, I like you personally but still disappointed with the lack of value creation in JD Power surveys and think you would could still help you.)

Growth in smartphone subscribers caused call quality to drop overall. (DCZ: Where?  We Know?) The company found that the number of dropped calls hit 6 per 100, compared to 4 per 100 calls six months ago. Calls with poor voice quality increased to 13 per 100, from 11 per 100 six months ago.  (DCZ:  Why were we not contacted for data?)

"Wireless customers rely on their phones to do everything from providing them with driving directions to sending picture messages, as well as placing calls, so carriers must provide their customers with a problem-free experience to keep them satisfied," Parsons said. "Wireless customers have higher expectations of their phones and the networks on which they operate than ever before. Carriers must continue to deliver on their promises for faster and more reliable connections as the number of customers using these advanced devices grows."

J.D. Powers and Associates also ranked U.S. Cellular and Verizon Wireless top most in call quality. Verizon had fewer customer-reported problems with calls than other operators in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, Southwest and West regions of the U.S. This is the 11th consecutive time Verizon has landed the top spot.  (DCZ:  Still no credible numbers or information to provided validity of this claim.)  U.S. Cellular beat out Verizon in the North Central region, where the carrier ranked highest for the ninth consecutive time.

Google femtocells could reach more than 50% of the U.S. population.

Femtocells are emerging as the primary technology that will link the indoor and outdoor cellular networks. These devices improve the quality of service of 3G, 2G and 2.5 networks indoors. Mobile users can enjoy voice and data services from home without having to stand near the window or outdoors. Femtocells are particularly attractive to mobile carriers in the US and even Google we think. Femtocells are emerging as the standard technology that lets wireless phone use in homes and offices become a viable alternative to landline telephones. The ability to leverage the Internet for back-haul makes femtocells an economic force in the marketplace; it brings the industry changes in the way voice is delivered.  US carriers have struggled for years claiming the cost of the femtocells being too high around $100 and keep playing the "waiting game" in order to drive costs lower and see "who jumps first". Some have considered renting out femtocells to users for a long contract period for $2-14 per month, rather than allowing them to buy it outright for $100+.

One perceived barrier to rollout is the need to reduce the cost per unit of the hardware or subsidize it.  We think its simply an excuse because they don't want to open up a "can of worms" admitting to their coverage deficiencies in the US.  Initially it may be that operators provide femtocells to customers as part of a service plan but Google may plans to give it away for free and monetize it through location based advertising.  The US carriers are truly still dumb pipes and are clueless about location based adverting.  This would significantly threaten their paid femtocell business model and it would force AT&T and Verizon into advertising acquisitions in order to catch up.

Ubiquisys, the Google-funded company is providing femtocells to O2 (UK carrier), along with many other trials around the world. It has technology that listens in to the existing GSM and 3G network signals to establish if the licensee is allowed to transmit here. This provides the advantage of allowing network operators to lock the femtocell to one physical location or more, for a small fee.  Google could use femtocell technology to quickly roll out wireless services in the U.S. By deploying a femtocell-like system, in a matter of a year they might be able to reach more than 50% of the U.S. population. Google can deploy femtocells at malls, on city streets (by mounting femtocells on street lamps), and along major highways. Then it might strike roaming agreements with other carriers to offer users wireless service outside the home while it builds out its wireless towers similar to Cox and Comcast. If Google set up the wireless telephone business, they could offer communications free, basing the revenue model on location based advertising. If calls go out to the Internet through the femtocell, they could be handled in the same way that Google Talk works not, and there would be no need for a wireless services provider.

Our Review of the Walt Mossberg Review of Magic Jack (DCZ)

By Walt Mossberg When I see a high-tech product (DCZ: with good PR people who get it to you first) that's advertised mainly via frequent hard-sell TV ads, as if it were a diet pill, I tend to assume it can't be very good (DCZ: your late to the game if 4M people have purchased?), especially if its price is absurdly low. So, I haven't paid much attention to a product called magicJack, a small $40 adapter for your computer that claims to let you make unlimited domestic phone calls over the Internet with your home telephone free for a whole year—and for just $20 a year thereafter. (DCZ:  because it wasn't originally sold through mainstream retail and is was hated by the big carriers?)

But after receiving reader requests to review magicJack (DCZ: Why?), I decided to do so. To my surprise, it worked pretty much as advertised. It has a few drawbacks, and extra fees for added services, such as vanity phone numbers. But I found magicJack easy to set up and easy to use, and it yielded decent, if not pristine, call quality. I even tested customer support—a source of complaints online—and found it friendly, fast and responsive.

Magic Jack is a new device and service that allows you to make cheap phone calls through your computer. Overall, the product works as advertised, Walt Mossberg found. MagicJack looks like an oversized USB flash drive. On one end is a standard USB connector for the PC; on the other is a standard phone jack to plug in a phone. It's compatible with PCs running Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7, as well as with all Intel-based Macs. It works with both corded and cordless phones, and comes with software for dialing, though you can also dial directly from a connected phone.

The low annual fee covers calls to and from any phone on any telephone network—landline or cellphone—not just phones connected to computers or to other magicJacks. The only restriction is that the numbers called must be in the U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands. You can also buy low-cost prepaid international minutes, or take your magicJack abroad to make free calls home. You can move it among different computers and locations.

MagicJack can also be used without a phone handset, via a computer headset or the computer's built-in microphone and speakers.  There's nothing new about Internet (DCZ: VoIP) phone calling. Companies like Vonage and Skype have been doing it for years. But magicJack is different. It emphasizes calling to and from phones on regular wired and wireless phone networks, and its prices for calls to and from such non-Internet-connected phones are much lower.  (DCZ: MagicJack is 2X larger than Vonage with 2M customers and would be curious to see what the service quality performance record is compared to Skype)

For instance, the lowest plan advertised on Vonage's Web site for calling regular phones in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico is $17.99 a month, or about $216 a year, versus magicJack's $20. And Vonage gives you only 500 minutes a month, while magicJack sets no limit. Skype charges per-minute or monthly fees for calls to regular phones and an added fee to receive incoming calls.  (DCZ: What about Google Voice?)

The maker of magicJack says its low prices are possible because the product is produced by a privately held Florida company called YMAX, which is also a phone carrier (DCZ:  also known as a CLEC). The company also runs ads inside its software. You can buy the device at a wide variety of stores, even drugstores and convenience stores. (DCZ: Do you think they might actually make more money off of location based advertising eventually?)

I tested magicJack on both a PC and a Mac. The software resides inside the magicJack itself and installs each time you connect it.  In my tests, I made and received calls on both computers, using a single landline phone and using a cordless-phone system in my house after plugging its base station into the magicJack. In the latter case, I could make and receive calls from cordless phones all over my house. I exchanged calls with both landline phones and cellphones from the magicJack.  The call quality was good, except for a few times when the connection got scratchy for a second or two. Most of the people I called said they couldn't tell I wasn't on a regular call. The system offers voice mail, call forwarding and conference calls, and you can save contacts.
A couple of times I didn't get an immediate dial tone, and had to hang up and try again.

The biggest downside of the magicJack compared with regular phone service is that you have to be running an Internet-connected computer, with a magicJack installed anytime you want to make or receive calls.  (DCZ:  It also works with WiFi?) Also, as with all Internet phone systems, you have to register your address with 911 emergency systems.   With magicJack, you get a new phone number. The company says it is working on allowing you to port your existing landline number. You can keep your landline number for use on some phones or when you're not using magicJack.

I found magicJack worked better on Windows than on the Mac. (DCZ:  Not a shocker) At one point, magicJack customer support had to send me software to patch the Mac version. But the company claims it is fixing that with a new Mac version coming soon.

YMAX also says it plans to roll out this year a Skype-like service that won't require any magicJack hardware, just a PC or an iPhone. It also plans a new version of magicJack to turn cellphones into wireless magicJack handsets. (DCZ:  This is going to be called the Femto Jack)

I don't know if those diet pills in the TV ads work. (DCZ:  Direct response marketing works) But magicJack does.


We need to hire this guy ASAP!   This is one of the funniest videos we have ever seen making fun of the marketing departments for both AT&T and Verizon.  This is a brilliant way to exacerbate the the feud going on between Verizon and AT&T in regards to map coverage.  This brilliant person had the creativity make his own coverage map helmet that shows AT&T's 3G coverage nationwide and went into stores trying to find a phone that could get him coverage in rural areas.

He enters an AT&T store to get some assistance and then goes into a Verizon store where he is greeted to a bunch of humorous talk from employees who drink the "coo-laid".  Kudos to him as he definitely managed to stir up some attention as he even walked around to a local movie theater where people complemented him and honked in support. He was so cool almost like Will Farrel and did a wonderful job in keeping his composure when questioned about the idea.  In the end he was unable to find the provider or phone that he was looking for.

Here is the commercial that he is clowning.  

The majority of mobile usage now takes place indoors as opposed to outdoors and on the move.

A recent survey by ADC revealed that the majority of mobile use now takes place indoors as opposed to outdoors and on the move. The research showed that the biggest problem area for mobile service is in lifts and/or stairwells but there can be problems when users are located anywhere away from the building’s exterior/windows. Other areas participants found especially problematic included conference rooms (28.5 percent), ground floor/basement (24.9 percent), and even at their desk (22.3 percent).

This shows me that the operators assumptions about marketing, cell phone coverage, tower build-outs and services provided to their current customers is "bass ackwards".  If mobile phone users are truly using phones indoors 60% of the time more than outdoors than femtocells should eventually become the pillars of their business and not cell phone towers.  So we could safely assume that close to 70M people in the US and 1B people worldwide should be in the market to buy a femtocell in the next few years assuming Wi-Fi does not become the dominant connector.

The survey also revealed that 60.8 percent of users rely on their mobile for their job, while 38.5 percent stated that this was their primary work phone. However, almost two thirds of respondents also complained of less than perfect mobile service in their workplace, with 27.6 percent stating that their work has suffered due to poor reception. The survey covered 200 mobile phone users in September & October.

Vodafone and others soon start advertising these devices
We really thought there would be a lot more femtocells on the market here in the US by 2010 considering all of the dead zones in the US and blackspots or bad patches in the UK.. There are some femtocells on the market today, but for the most part carriers are still in "trials" and have not educated the consumer about the product.  We are pleased to see the Vodafone UK has started marketing femtocells and educating consumers   and maybe even acknowledging a UK blackspots map for UK

It’s pretty common for mobile phone customers in Europe to get better deals that we get here in in the U.S. Such is the case with a new femtocell from Vodafone called the Sure Signal pictured above. The device does what you expect a femtocell to do by routing wireless calls over your broadband connection for better signal strength.  The big difference is that Vodafone made the femtocell an attractive device by offering it to customers for a onetime fee. Vodafone users who spend £25 monthly or more on their rate plan can get the device for £120. Those who spend more can get the Sure Signal for as low as £50. No ongoing monthly fees are required and it supports up to four users at once.

Femtocells are expected to rise substantially over the coming years as a growing number of operators start deploying the devices to increase capacity and coverage in their networks, industry organization Femto Forum said Tuesday. At a briefing at the ongoing World Mobile Congress in Barcelona, the non-profit organization's chairman Simon Saunders said increased mobile spectrum and new efficient network standards like Long Term Evolution will not in themselves be enough to meet the explosion in mobile data generated by smartphones and laptops. Femtocells, essentially minimal base stations about the size of a small shoe box which cover an area of some 10,000 square feet, will increasingly be deployed in homes, offices and busy city environments to help offload the networks, Saunders said.

According to projections from analysis firm Informa, some 49 million femto cells will be deployed by 2014, he added. A few big operators including Vodafone Group Plc (VOD) and AT&T Inc (T) have recently started deploying femtocells, according to Sanjeev Verma, founder of U.S.-based femtocell maker Airvana Inc. (AIRV). There are a few hundred thousand femtocells in use worldwide, he said in an interview Tuesday, but added that the number should rise sharply as Vodafone and others soon start advertising the devices.

Operators are interested in femtocells because they improve coverage in indoors environments and boost network capacity, said Verma. He said they also allow some applications for home environments, like synchronizing electronic devices over the network. A typical femtocell costs around $100-$200, Verma said, but added that operators will probably offer them to consumers at a subsidized price, much like they currently do with mobile phones.

In a separate keynote speech Tuesday, Guo Ping, Chief Science Officer at Chinese network equipment vendor Huawei Technologies Co, said limited bandwidth is an important challenge for the telecom industry. Telecom firms can meet capacity demands by rolling out faster technology standards like Long Term Evolution, gaining access to more spectrum, and building solutions for increased coverage in hot spots, he said.

I have been skiing up at Mt. Baldy for almost 10 years and think it is one of the hidden secrets of Los Angeles.  Unfortunately, the most annoying thing about the ski resort is that it has zero T-Mobile cell phone coverage as you leave Claremont, CA and drive up the mountain.   There hasn't been any coverage on the mountain for many years and is a prime candidate for a distributed antenna system that multiple carriers could piggyback on.

Today was a beautiful 55 degree Spring skiing day in the mountains with my 3 year old son who tore it up.  However, we were skiing with another father and daughter and became separated.  There were probably a few thousand people on the mountain during the day and many of whom had T-Mobile.  The friends we were with had AT&T Wireless and left numerous voicemails and text messages that were unreceived by us until we were back in the Claremont area.  

Unfortunately, this can be a big safety hazard if one assumes that a place with as much traffic as Mt. Baldy has does not have cell coverage.  I can't image if someone would get in-trouble on the mountain and their only hope was dialing their cell phone for help and it didn't work.  Apparently, AT&T and Verizon do work on the mountain and it would be nice to see T-Mobile strike up a roaming agreement with either.  Get it together T-Mobile its about time.  There are millions of people that live near the foothills of this mountain and many millions of them are your customers.

Please retweet this and/or share this with your friends and hope with enough people speaking about it we get it fixed. 

The Femto Forum's Femtozone 2009 at Mobile World Congress was a huge success and included products & presentations from 31 member organizations. This year promises to be bigger and better than ever, with the very latest products and a packed speaker programme featuring some of the world's leading femto gurus from the vendor & carrier communities.  Femtozone 2010 also features a compelling demo programme - download the speaker programme below for details & timeslots.

Click |HERE| for the Mobile World Congress speaker program

A summary presentation will be available for download on the Femto Forum website on 15th February 2010 and the findings will also be presented daily at Mobile World Congress in the femtozone in Hall 1 Stand G19 (http://www.femtoforum.org/femtozone2010/mwc.php).

About The Femto Forum
Femtocells are low-power wireless access points that operate in licensed spectrum to connect standard mobile devices to a mobile operator’s network using residential DSL or cable broadband connections. The Femto Forum (www.femtoforum.org) was set up in 2007 to promote the wide-scale adoption of femtocells. The Forum supports and drives the adoption of industry wide standards and common architectures to enable the widespread adoption & deployment of femtocells by operators around the world. It directs and implements a multi-faceted marketing campaign raising the profile, driving technology development & deployment and promoting the potential of femto solutions among industry stakeholders, journalists, analysts, regulators, special interest groups, standards bodies and consumers.

Engadget By Chris Ziegler posted Feb 12th 2010 12:14PM

Thought WiFi spectrum was congested now? You ain't seen nothin' yet, because SIM card provider Sagem Orga has hooked up with Telefonica to develop a marvel of modern technology called "SIMFi" that combines -- you guessed it -- WiFi with a run-of-the-mill SIM card like you'd slip in your cell. In practical terms, this means that you're able to turn virtually any phone (or "classic handsets," as the company calls them) into a WiFi hotspot accessible by authenticated laptops, MIDs, and miscellaneous wireless gadgets in the immediate vicinity. Frankly, the concept is downright brilliant in its simplicity -- never mind the fact that we had no idea you could fit WiFi circuitry into a 25 x 15 x 0.76mm footprint -- and we're excited for what this means for the future of tethering, assuming carriers can keep up with the spectrum demands. MiFis and Overdrives of the world, you're on notice. Follow the break for Sagem Orga's full release.

Google has slowly been crossing paths with the carriers, by its recent spectrum purchases and fiber lines.  Carriers have traditionally looked at Skype and Google Voice with a sense of alarm, this latest announcement is likely to light an even bigger sense of fear.  Carriers have traditionally sold voice minutes and data. At worst, most telcos believed they might be relegated to the role of a dumb-pipe. That is now set to change as Google looks to subsidize these services giving it away for free.  Free will come with a price of your identity, location and some personal information.  Google is quietly becoming an advertising powerhouse and location based advertising is squarely in their sights.  

Google Voice will likely be the monetization vehicle to make this happen.  One important thing that is not being covered by the media is that consumers talk on their mobile phone 50% of the time indoors.  Also, the majority of phones being sold these days are smartphones which have Wi-Fi VoIP capabilities. This means that you don't really need to be connected to the outside cellular network if you are only using data and you have an IP based Voice application like Skype or Google Voice.  


Do you still listen to satellite because you hate the audio commercials and love the content?  One of my favorite applications on the PC, Android, BlackBerry and iPhone has to be Pandora Radio. Considering that 3g cell coverage is less than par in most big cites, it doesn’t help that AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon & Sprint will have more users competing for data access on its' networks. As a result, the Pandora cell phone reception is going to suffer for a while and will often times be non-existent.  I think Pandora eventually needs to start caching the content to prevent drop outs in the music when you enter poor cell phone coverage areas.  If that isn't possible will Pandora need to provide its users with an "inverse cell coverage map" directly on the phone to show where cell service might not work?  

Pandora is a new scientific way of listening to music. It bridges the gap between radio and itunes-- free to paid and back to free. Pandora sprouted up from the Music Genome Project, which matches songs and artists with up to 400 different characteristics. Just say the name of a song or artist and it plays continuous music related to your choice, just sit back and enjoy. The new music revolution just turned cash flow positive and has over 40M users. I am amazed with the user growth of the company and hope that it could be a new platform for Howard Stern when he possibly leaves Sirius / XM at the end of 2010.  The Pandora iPhone app is very popular. There's a reason Sirius and XM almost went bankrupt and were forced to merge (other than their large debt loads).

One concern is that the company relies 100% on advertising for success and desperately needs 3G and 4G cellular reception distribution success.  If the company truely is an IPO candidate according to Big Trends in 2010 it will need to become more transparent and helpful to its users and advertisers about where their ads and music might NOT be heard or seen. WiFi seems to be the best answer currently when using Pandora on your phone as WiMax, 3G & 4G are still fragile at best most cities.

Published by Seeking Alpha February 10, 2010

Cramer's Stop Trading! AT&T's Towers of Babble

"Cramer prefers Verizon (VZ) over its rival AT&T (T) which has been having too many problems lately with its network. Complaints from Apple (AAPL) iPhone users over lost calls and slow service are too frequent, and Cramer would not be bullish on AT&T until it builds more cell phone towers while not letting an increase in capital expenditures threaten its strong dividend. While Cramer is "not giving up" on AT&T, he thinks Verizon is the superior stock right now."

Cramer has it wrong and he is going to be waiting a long time for new cell phone tower build-outs from AT&T and Verizon because of government bureaucrats who stand in the way.  4G or WiMax is not the answer either as many big companies want you to think. The picture above is just one of thousands of local fights between the city and neighbors who don't want new towers.

The real problem that the industry won't tell you is most people talk on their mobile phone 50% indoors.  So the real solution here is when Verizon and AT&T announce their plans for mini cell phone towers in the home or also known as femtocells.  Other competing solutions include distributed antenna solutions (DAS) but are more more expensive to build out and typically require 2 carriers to make a build-out profitable.  Why the mainstream media has not picked up on this yet is beyond me.  Some expect this to be as soon as February or March of 2010.  

Distributed antenna systems are gaining traction as an alternative way for carriers to fill in coverage or add more capacity to the wireless network when new cellsites are not an option. It has also quickly become a way for smaller carriers trying to get to market quickly. However, these small antennas that usually sit on top of utility poles face their own challenges in an unsettled regulatory environment.  DAS providers typically like to piggyback other carriers on a project to make it feasible.  A rule of thumb is for 2.5 carriers are typically used by DAS business teams before the project is feasible to build.  As a rule of thumb, it takes between three and five DAS nodes to equal the coverage carriers can get from one cellular macro site.  DAS solutions work in tandem with macro cellular tower builds, rather than compete with them. DAS networks are often used by service providers that cannot get siting permission for a traditional tower, for carriers that want better in-building coverage, or to expand capacity and coverage in a particular area. They are also used by carriers with less spectrum that want to get to market quickly like Leap Wireless International IncMetroPCS Communications Inc. and Cox Wireless.   The two largest DAS system companies leading the industry are highlighted below.

NextG Networks designs, permits, builds, operates and manages DAS Networks. The DAS-Networks are protocol-neutral, to support multiple wireless carriers, services, and technologies. NextG provides RF transport and backhaul services to service providers over discrete, multi-frequency, scalable networks that improve the quality, coverage, and capacity of any wireless service. NextG Networks is headquartered in San Jose, CA and operates regional subsidiaries throughout the United States. The company has raised over $560M since 2008.

Extenet Systems designs, builds and operates network infrastructure - primarily using distributed antenna systems. ExteNet is technologically adaptable – which means they can operate CDMA, GSM, UMTS, 3G and 4G within each fiber network that we deploy. They are adept at designing, implementing and operating fiber networks to extend their network’s traditional sites into hard-to-zone areas, or to places where you do not have coverage. Their fiber networks could also be a reasonable backhaul solution for wireless service providers. The company has raised over $156M in Venture Capital since 2008.

DropSpot - User Generated Carrier Coverage Map by LetsTalk.com

Congratulations LetsTalk.com you are about the 10th company to try and replicate an idea the we invented in 2001.  I am starting to feel like Howard Stern when he complains about Jay Leno and other Hollywood producers who rip off his ideas.  It amazes me that no one even considered contacting us to see if we would have private labeled a map for them.  I wish them all the luck in the world but offer a slight jab for the lack of insight.  Feel free to contact us when you decide its better to not try and "reinvent the wheel".  By the way it looks like the DropSpot.com domain might be "parked" and be for sale. I guess imitation is the best form of flattery! 

Letstalk Blog Post by Joni Blecher, Wednesday, February 10, 2010 -Looking for a few good cell phone spots and some bad ones, too?:  "It happens to all of us we can be in the middle of a call and just like that the call gets dropped. Then you need to call back the person when cell phone service picks up and remember where you left off in the conversation. For some of us we can be talking and not even realize we dropped the call until we wait for a response from the other person on the line only hear to nothing. Next, we find ourselves saying, “Hello? Hello? Anyone there?” On the flip side, there are also those areas where we routinely go to make/take calls because the reception is amazing. Those spots, good and bad, are often why we choose the carrier we do to service our cell phone and even why we sometimes feel compelled to change carriers. Wouldn’t it be easier to make those decisions if you knew the location of those spots before making any big decisions about cell phone service? We do. LetsTalk.com has recently launched a new free service that helps do just that on its site called DropSpot. We’d love to get your feedback, so just click this link and lets us know the spots where you get great service and the areas where you constantly drop calls."

Dropped calls are often more annoying than dead zones themselves. Most people I know and especially those with iPhone's can identify many locations near their home or office where their cell phone consistently drops calls.  Here is a sample complaint I submitted on my recent ski trip visit to Vail, Colorado.  I experienced some very poor coverage problems in very high traffic area that should have good coverage indoors and outside.  I submitted the complaint because carriers want to know about these locations so they can prioritize problem areas and fix them.  We think by providing more transparency and an open platform to communicate these locations that network improvements will happen faster.  Click on the map links on the right of the blog or follow this link to report dropped calls.  Here are some steps to follow after you have submitted your complaint on our map:
  • The most common cause of dropped calls is your proximity to the cell phone tower or location. Obviously, your cell phone will have the strongest signal out of doors. Some buildings may contain areas with no reception at all because signals do not penetrate building materials well. When a call drops, check your signal strength and move to an area where it is stronger if you can. Avoid making or taking calls around electronics, especially computers, as the devices may also cause interference with your signal.
  • Check your phone settings to see if your phone is set to roam to your network only or any available tower. If your calling plan includes unlimited roaming, set your phone to roam to any available tower. More towers mean more chances of catching a strong signal.
  • If your signal strength has always been good in an area, but suddenly goes bad, try removing the battery from your phone.  Do remember that 3G networks will "breath" which means signal strengths are constantly being adjusted by the carrier.  Leave the battery out for at least 10 seconds. Replace it and check your signal strength again.   
  • If the first two steps don't work, try updating your cell phone's Preferred Roaming List, aka PRL. This list helps your cell phone find available towers. New towers are added all the time, so it is important to update this list periodically. You can find specific instructions either on your wireless provider's web site or by calling Technical Support. This process will require you to call a special number and the programming will take place automatically.
  • At this point, if you are still experiencing dropped calls, call Technical Support. There may be issues with towers in your area or other network problems. Your cell phone itself might be the problem and Technical Support can advise you on the best way to proceed with needed repairs.

The femtocell industry could be on the cusp of becoming one of the largest online direct response marketing areas if the carriers could simply get their act together.  The product category is expected to grow from 200,000 units in 2009 to over 70 million by 2014.  Carriers are still in denial about their problems and it remains to be seen if the carriers themselves will do the majority of the marketing or if they will leave it up to third parties to figure it out.  Carriers have spent billions of dollars defending their networks and trying to brainwash consumers that they have the best coverage maps and refuse to acknowledge their in-building coverage limitations to the media. AT&T & Verizon own 160 million customers and have two thirds of the market in the U.S. and are not really that motivated to roll these products out and admit their flaws.  We are most curious to see what the other one third of the market or 80 million customers do with femtocells: T-Mobile, Sprint, TracFone, MetroPCS, Cricket, Boost, Cox, Comcast and Time Warner.

One disruptive new market entrant Magic Jack recently announced the development of a Femto Jack USB femtocell for $20 per year.  This announcement seemed to light a fire under the large carriers to get more trials underway and get product in the market. Other technology alternatives and quasi competitors include Skype and Google Voice who are using Wi-Fi to get cell phone reception on smart phones.  The cable companies are also heavily vested in land lines into the home and want to protect these assets.  I can't image Cox & Comcast will want to have AT&T and Verizon voice / data traffic congesting their lines?  I expect these players to invest huge amounts of capital into the wireless business which will provide a quad play.

At a price point of $5-10 per month or around $100-200 there will be plenty of margin for carriers and new cable entrants to pay marketing professionals for customer acquisition.  The key will be targeting customers who truly have a home coverage problem for voice and data.  We happen to think that approximately 120M mobile users in the U.S. alone are candidates for femtocells.  Our data on deadcellzones.com suggests that 50% of homes and businesses do not have seamless wireless coverage throughout the home.  Rural customers will be targeted areas for femtocell products because of the large distances between cell phone towers.  Customers who live in the city will be targeted for data congestion issues on the network.

Carriers face a great challenge to have their networks keep pace with the ever growing performance demands  and customer service complaints brought on by the explosive growth and use of data devices. The success of smart phones have put data usage on a growth path that is unprecedented. AT&T has reported an increase in network data consumption of 5000% over the last 3 years, driven by a minority of customers who own the Apple iPhone. This change in how users access data demands that network operators monitor, diagnose and optimize their network’s coverage and capacity performance in order to bring real-time response to the wireless networks.

Wireless are very complex and network planning tools can only provide a high level approximation of the quality of coverage and the peak number of subscribers per sector or cell tower. RF engineers have look at too much data to adjust configuration parameters to better manage the interference, balance the load or correct for troublesome performance areas. The identification of those spots or dead zones is not simple and requires extensive investigation, manual labor and time consuming analysis. The process may start by tracing dropped calls and dead zones within their serving sectors at the instance of the drop and monitor the probability of this occurrence over multiple weeks. In addition, drive tests could be required to identify the approximate location of the dropped calls or dead zones so that an RF network engineer can take this information into account when changing network parameters in order to improve the coverage and/or quality of the network. In other words, a carrier is required to allocate significant resources (equipment, employees, vehicles and time) to perform drive tests and collect sufficient data to diagnose network inefficiencies.  It also assumes the carrier will perform these tests at the optimum time to replicate the problem during peak usage.  Moreover, it is also challenging and resource consuming to optimize or improve the identified troublesome areas without adversely affecting neighboring areas. Therefore, in order to save operational expenses while enhancing user experience, there is a demand to automate the processes of diagnosis and optimization as much as possible.

Deadcellzones.com "Consumer Generated Coverage Maps" is a key network planning tool that enables wireless operators to prioritize  problem areas in their network in both real-time and over-time. Rather than using expensive and time consuming drive tests to troubleshoot a problem once it occurs, the carrier collects and analyzes actual complaints from users.  Carriers could spend billions of dollars fixing and optimizing the entire network but obtaining actually customer complaints helps prioritize upgrades in areas where customers feel the most pain.  Often times the carrier might not be able to fix the problem themselves and might require a partner and multiple carriers to setup a distributed antenna system in the neighborhood.

Published by Dan Cohen from GearDiary.com

Every now and then you come across a product that promises to do things exceptionally well for a lower price than you would otherwise expect and… it actually exceeds your expectations. That’s the case with the Sleek cell phone booster for Wilson Electronics.

We had a chance to meet with representatives from the company when we were in Las Vegas for CES and, thanks to them, I’ve been using a review unit of the Sleek for the past week or so. The unit is small, surprisingly inexpensive and it works phenomenally well. I live in a part of New Jersey where the cell reception can drop off to nothing at a moment’s notice. It is beyond frustrating to be in the midst of a call and constantly worry that you’re about to be disconnected. Since I started using the Sleek I haven’t had any of these issues. In addition, I have found the unit to be the best window mounted car cradle I have ever used with my iPhone. It holds the phone securely, doesn’t require you to “click” the phone into place, and it can be used with the iPhone of whether the phone is in a case or not. Moreover, it is great when I am using my iPhone as a GPS.

Yes, I’m raving about this product… but only because it is that good. Let’s take a look…
From Wilson Electronics–
The Wilson plug-and-play Sleek™ helps users reduce dropped calls, increase data rates in weak signal areas and originate calls from those dreaded “dead spots”. The Sleek™ and its external vehicular antenna increases any phone’s output power to the cell site while improving its ability to hear signals it normally cannot, keeping the user more reliably connected. Designed for simple set up, the Sleek™ can be easily moved from vehicle to vehicle.
Built into the Sleek™ cradle is a Wilson tried and tested bi-directional signal amplifier and battery charging port. The cradle is ideal for hands free operation in conjunction with a user’s headset or Bluetooth device.
Features:
    • Reduces dropped calls, extends signal range, and increases data rates
    • Built in amplifier boosts signals to and from cell site
    • Up to 20 TIMES more output power to cell site when in a vehicle
    • Receives weak signals the phone alone may not
    • Built-in port for battery charging
    • Extends battery life – Amplifier enables phone to work at reduced power
    • Simplifies hands free operation
    • Installs in minutes – no special tools required
    • Package includes everything needed — plug-and-play
    • Attractive, compact design
    • Adjustable arms to fit most any phone
My thoughts –
The Sleek’s amplifying electronics are right in the cradle itself. That keeps the unit small and makes setup as simple as finding the right spot in your car for the cradle, figuring out how you want to attach the base, and then running the antenna from the cradle to the roof or hood of the car. The kit comes with everything that you need in order to make this happen.
The cradle –

On the bottom of a cradle there are two connection points. The first allows you to screw in the antenna. The second is a mini USB port for powering the device. The unit ships with both a car adapter and a wall adapter. Because the unit is so small and comes with both power sources it can easily be moved from the car to a home office if need be. On the side of the cradle is a second mini USB port. This is used to charge select devices if you have the appropriate additional accessory connectors. Using an extra cable that I had lying around I was able to set it up so that the Sleek now charges my iPhone when it’s in the cradle as well.
The system for holding the phone in the cradle is rather unusual and is probably the best solution that I have yet encountered. (Best understood in the above video.)
There are two “arms” that come out from either side of the cradle at an angle and create a space in front of the cradle where the iPhone can slip in. Because of the angle, however, the opening at the front is smaller and therefore holds the iPhone, once in position, in place. Each arm is to attach to the cradle in one of three positions thus providing a number of different options from a size perspective. If you’re using a small feature phone using the brackets into the first slot on either side of the cradle and create the smallest “compartment”. If you’re using a large phone you should remove the brackets to the frontmost slot on either side and create a large ‘compartment”. For the iPhone I position the brackets in the middle slot on both sides and it works perfectly. In fact, it’s exactly the right size for me to use my iPhone either in the case were not in a case without having to move the brackets again.
Running the antenna outside of the car was a bit more challenging. this isn’t intended to be a permanent solution that is built into the car so having the antenna professionally run to the outside doesn’t make a lot of sense. In addition, the first attempt to position the antenna at the back of the car didn’t work because the court was a little bit too short for my needs. In the end I ran the court through the hinge on the driver side and positioned the small antenna right next to the hood of the car. It’s unobtrusive and quite secure in its home now.
Once the cradle was attached to the windshield and the anttenna was run outside the installation process was done. Really it’s that simple.
I then plugged the Sleek into the cigarette lighter, dropped my iPhone into the cradle, and saw my cell reception improved dramatically. In places where I would have one bar I now have four or five bars. in places where I had four bars I now consistently have a full five. Best of all, why don’t have any scientific data to prove this, it certainly seems as if my iPhone is getting far better battery life thanks to the strong signal it’s receiving.
I have the cradle set up so that I can charge my phone if need be but I really haven’t found myself needing to.
What really amazes me about this device is not just that it works so incredibly well but that it comes in at an MSRP of just $130. To my mind, the increase in cell reception, the superb iPhone cradle it offers and the apparent better battery life make this a technology bargain. It is so good, in fact, been thinking about buying one to using my home study. (As bad as the drops are when I’m driving the cell reception when I’m home is even worse.)
The Sleek cell phone signal booster is an MSRP of $130 and is available from a wide variety of authorized Wilson product dealers.
What I like –
It works beautifully and boosts signals significantly, installation is easy, it comes with both a windshield mount and adhesive mount so you have a wide range of choices, the cradle itself comes in more than a bit handy even when you aren’t using the signal booster as a signal booster
What needs improvement –
I would love to see the products ship with a wide range of adapters for charging everything from a Motorola Droid to an Apple iPhone, the entire court was too short to make it all the way to the back of my Subaru Outback’s roof (although ultimately a forced me to find a far better location for the antenna)
For more information visit Wilson’s site.

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