Wireless operators like AT&T and Verizon have an ingenious way to improve service to the roughly 50 percent of all subscribers who complain of poor reception at home:
Buy your own cellular tower.
For $100 and a monthly service charge, U.S. wireless carriers will provide customers with a "femtocell," a miniature cell-phone tower for the home. It's a bit galling that customers should have to pay even more to get reasonable cellular service, but it's looking like a sure bet that the program will take off, as consumers (like myself) are desperate to finally get the quality cellular service for which they've long paid.
The benefits to the carriers, as Businessweek notes, are clear:
It's easy to understand why wireless operators like femtocells. The technology lets them shift some of the burden of adding wireless capacity to their customers. Carriers pay for traditional cell phone towers themselves, of course, and the costs can hit $500,000 per tower. In addition, community opposition to new towers is common and can delay construction for years. Carriers do pay for the femtocell box, which runs about $200 now, but they recoup the cost by reselling the box to consumers for about $100 and collecting ongoing fees for femto service. "There's a dirty little secret," says Tammy Parker, principal analyst at Informa. "The femtocell benefits the carrier more than the end user."
Sign me up. Seriously. Along with many (most?) others, I've long been an unwilling dupe of the cellular industry, paying thousands of dollars over the course of a year for shoddy service. Why? Because there hasn't been an alternative.
Now, however, there's an opportunity to improve the reception of my cellular service, and I admit that I'm happy to be duped again. Anything to improve the service. Where do I sign up?