I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that pretty much all of us have, at one time or another, wanted to throw our cell phones out the window after having a call drop for the 100th time while talking on it in our homes. Well have no fear, a technology called femtocells (don't ask me where they came up with that name!) is coming to a neighborhood store near you -- hopefully sooner rather than later.
So what exactly are femtocells? In a nutshell, they're super small versions of cell towers (also known as "access point base stations") that are housed in a piece of hardware that looks like your standard home Internet modem. In some cases they will come pre-installed with an Internet modem -- mostly in those cases where you have a provider (e.g., AT&T, Verizon, etc.) who your cell phone and home Internet service. If that's not the case, then you'll likely need to get a sepate box -- either way these femtocells use existing high speed Internet connection in your home. From what I can tell, the current versions that are in development will be able to support 2-4 cell phones in one location, and they'll operate much like a home Wi-Fi environment in that you'll be able to "lock" your network and limit access so that you don't have folks camped outside your house poaching your signal.
As of last year, Sprint was the first carrier here in the U.S. to make the service (called "Airave") available nationwide -- for those of you interested you can see get more info on their web site here. AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon are apparently in the trial phase and should be rolling out their femtocell services sometime this year. And since I haven't tried these services yet, I can't really vouch for how well (or not!) they work.
So if you haven't already chucked that cell phone out your living room window, you now have even more reason than ever to hold on to it!
If you have any suggestions on topics to be covered as part of this T.A.P. series, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.