Netgear has announced it will be using technology from Ubiquisys to embed 3G femtocells into a home gateway product by the end of the year, though the box will also have Wi-Fi; in addition to being a DSL modem and VoIP router.
Femtocells promise to spread 3G connectivity into homes, allowing your 3G handset to connect to your own local cell and have calls routed over your ADSL line, when you're at home; but that's only the beginning of what they can offer.
The femtocell also connects to the home network, enabling content on the phone to be streamed to devices around the home, such as TVs and stereo systems, as well as giving the user access to all the normal 3G services at up to 7.2Mb/sec (assuming their handset supports HSDPA).
Wide scale deployment of femtocells has the potential to make Wi-Fi networks redundant: why use a power-hungry, short-range, technology when the addition of a femtocell provides all the same functionality without the drawbacks?
Of course, such technology will only be available from network operators; they own the licences covering the frequencies that 3G operates in, and network operators are surprisingly conservative when it comes to new technologies, not to mention business models.
This announcement from Netgear puts the femtocell firmly in the consumer-electronics bracket and presents a real opportunity for network operators to unbalance the dominance of Wi-Fi. But if they have the nerve to take advantage of that opportunity remains to be seen.®