Opinions about Femtocell Business Case

Kindle eBook and Femtocells

eBook  Have you seen the latest eBook technology which allows you to store and view many books on a remarkably easy to read display? The Amazon Kindle specifically includes a cellular 3G service which runs on Sprint's network, allowing you to choose and download an eBook almost anywhere in the US. Would eBook users benefit from having a femtocell at home?

What are eBooks?

eBooks are small hand-held devices which emulate the display properties of printed paper books, but can store hundreds of volumes inside. The two most popular models are the Amazon Kindle and Sony’s eReader (since discontinued).

The Kindle includes a cellular data modem which uses Sprint’s 3G EV-DO service transparently – there is no subscription charge and all costs are paid directly to Amazon. Sony’s model is used more like an Apple iPod – you download new books via your PC and “sideload” them via a USB cable.

Much of the comparison with these products has been with printed paper books. Broadly, the tradeoffs are:

Feature Comment
Size/Space Save weight/size/space especially when travelling
Power eBooks do need battery power. The Sony eReader only uses power when turning pages and will run for several books without recharge. The Kindle requires power when accessing the cellular network reducing its charge lifetime to a few days.
Price eBooks are still comparatively expensive – mostly cheaper than printed but not always. Kindle offers 100 bestsellers for under $10. Royalties paid to authors can be higher than printed volumes (35% vs 5-20%)
Convenience Instant delivery in seconds for any book purchased online
Range of titles Limited but growing. Over 200,000 publications For example, very few technical books available for Sony eReader. Kindle requires publishers to have US Bank Account, limiting foreign self-published authors. eBooks can be published online within 24 hours, compared to the 6-8 weeks distribution timescales for print. Content also includes worldwide newspapers, magazines and blogs.
Reading Comfort Surprisingly good. What can’t easily be emulated is rapidly turning the pages, skipping sections or just having that feeling that you’ve made it through 3/4 of the book by width alone.

eBooks won't be just another mobile phone feature

Unlike many other features, I don’t see an eBook being directly integrated as just another feature of a mobile phone – the physical format and display characteristics are too different. I've seen this tried with the Nintendo DS - you can buy a "game" with 100 classic novels - I just don't believe the reading format is good enough.

eBook users will want excellent mobile data performance

If eBooks do take off over the coming years, we’ll see Kindle and other eBook users want excellent performance using the cellular service.

This forum discussion on Amazon discussed the topic for Kindle users with a Sprint Airave femtocell. It asks if the Kindle is compatible with Sprint's Airave femtocell (it isn't today, but the 3G EV-DO capability is on Samsung's product roadmap).

The conclusion is that today, Airave is currently a voice only service.  Although it can transfer text messages and slow 2G data (using the CDMA 1xRTT format), the Kindle uses the higher performance 3G EV-DO system which is incompatible with today’s Samsung Ubicell.

Although future versions of the Samsung product may support EV-DO, I strongly doubt if this could be a firmware upgrade as suggested by one commenter.

With the explosive growth of 3G data services particularly in Western Europe, it is likely that future versions of the Kindle and/or its competitors for a world market would need to be UMTS compatible.

Conclusion

If 3G femtocells were available in the home, it would drastically improve the battery life of the Kindle due to the short transmission range. Book downloading would be blazingly fast due to lower interference and higher transmission rates.

If ebook readers such as the Kindle and the newly launched Sony eBook reader are a success, then these may be another reason to adopt femtocells within the home.

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