More US consumers eyeing femtocells
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More US consumers eyeing femtocells

I'd love -- REALLY LOVE -- to have an iPhone 4 (assuming, of course, I could get my hands on one). However, AT&T's crappy wireless service in my neck of the woods prevents this -- though Verizon's service has gotten increasingly worse. Maybe I need a femtocell.

International research firm Parks Associates today announced the results of the most comprehensive survey to date of U.S. consumer attitudes to femtocells, conducted on behalf of the Femto Forum.

AT&T, among other companies, is rolling out femtocells that, when connected to the home's broadband modem, will pick up signals from the cell phones in the home and relay them through the Internet connection. In essence, they're small cell towers for the home. AT&T wants to sell me one for $150. But if their wireless service stays crappy, they should give 'em away.

Regardless, lots of folks are going the femtocell route. A new survey by the Park Associates research group finds that more than half of U.S. broadband households with mobile phones are interested in femtocell benefits, and are willing to pay for the devices and associated new services.

The survey found that fewer than 10% of consumers were previously familiar with femtocells. However upon exposure to a description of the femtocell and its benefits, 56% of respondents found femtocells appealing -- of these, two thirds found the technology either “very” or “extremely” appealing. Additionally, 89% of those respondents who were already familiar with femtocells found them appealing, suggesting that interest will increase as awareness grows.

The primary driver for femtocell interest was improved in-home coverage. Important secondary drivers included increased mobile handset battery life, faster mobile broadband, advanced femtocell services and home-zone calling tariffs. The survey found that 72% of consumers who found femtocells appealing were very interested in at least one advanced femtocell service.

Examples of such services include Virtual Home Number, which rings every cell phone in the home, or Family Alerts, which warn when a subscriber has left or returned home. What's more, half of these respondents indicated a willingness to pay US$4.99/month for their single favorite service or $9.99/month for a bundle of their favorite three services.

Although Wi-Fi is sometimes viewed as a femtocell alternative, the Park Associates survey showed that 84% of people who heavily use Wi-Fi on their 3G devices found femtocells appealing. Improved voice coverage and battery life were the top drivers for femtocell demand among these Wi-Fi users.

The study also revealed that femtocells can have a major impact on consumer satisfaction and loyalty. Among consumers who consider themselves likely to change operator in the next 12 months, 44% said that they would very likely reconsider if their current operator offered a femtocell. Similarly, 35% of consumers in multi-operator households said they would likely consolidate their services around a single provider who offered a femtocell.

Although over 90% of those who found the technology appealing expressed willingness to pay upfront for the device, respondents demonstrated sensitivity to the actual price level. Demand is highest when upfront device costs are in the $20-$50 range. This demand halves when in the $50-$100 range and halves again when the cost exceeds $100.

-- Dennis Sellers


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