Our latest post from Femtocells World Summit 2011 looks at the experiences of Verizon Wireless as it develops its femto strategy.
As of Q1 2011 Verizon had 104m subscribers. Reneta Haynes, manager technology – product development says the operator sees femto as a cost effective option for extending cellular services indoors. “We support femto for many reasons, such as that all macro cell features are supported.”
The operator offers two products – a consumer product and what Haynes describes as its “first step into the enterprise.” The consumer product supports up to six simultaneous users, while the enterprise offering supports seven users (with an eighth channel for emergency calls).
According to Haynes, “60% of our customers’ mobile usage is indoors and we find building materials block between 40 and 60% of the external signal. Strong indoor mobile coverage tops consumer wish-lists.”
A pilot programme in Chicago targeting highest use customers has yielded an increase in in-building coverage satsfaction by 70%, which has prompted the operator to look at similar programmes in other parts of the US. It has also given its sales teams the option of providing free units on a case by case basis, a strategy Haynes said might be extended.
“We need to get to free – there are still detractors who feel they should not pay for in-building coverage and see it as the operator’s problem. We also need to increase product awareness, which is a challenge because we don’t advertise the product but customers need a better understanding of the issues around femto cells, such as who owns the box.”
Encouragingly, Haynes says enquiries about how businesses can leverage the femto to develop location based services are increasing.
In response to a question from the floor about how an operator with a brand of having the best network promotes a box that addresses network problems, Haynes acknowledged that Verizon needed to make the femto more than a coverage play to push it to the customer – “it is a solution but not something we will push.”
She added that Verizon has plans for LTE femtos but would not be drawn on the specifics of its strategy for long term evolution.
Paul Golden is a contributing editor to Futurity Media.