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Connected Home

Femtocell Connected Home This concept is strongly promoted by independent femtocell vendors, who seek to challenge the ways in which cellular phones are used today. When inside the coverage of your home femtocell, in the so-called femtozone, your mobile device will be directly connected to other networked equipment and be able to communicate and control it.

Examples given include using Universal Plug and Play (uPnP) applications, as promoted by Microsoft, to:

  • stream audio or video from a home network server to the mobile device. This allows viewing of any recorded TV program or songs from your personal music collection to be available on demand.
  • control other uPnP devices, such as viewing pictures or movies on the TV.
  • share content on your mobile with other devices, such as viewing pictures taken on your mobile phone directly on the TV.
  • synchronise data between mobile device and home network, such as automatically uploading your new photos when you return home.

These solutions capitalise on the capability of femtocells to directly output data to the customer's home network, without the need to be transmitted via the network operator's systems.

The benefits to the customer include:

  • compatability with existing 3G phones. Although these applications require a "smart phone", rather than a basic model, these feature can be enabled through software download. Some commentators, including Dean Bubley, argue that femtozone applications of this nature will require enhancements and changes to existing mobile devices. However, these are optimisations - to make it work better - rather than mandatory make-or-break features.
  • simplicity. The ease of configuration and setup should be simpler than with WiFi dual mode handsets. This is partly enabled through the uPnP standard.
  • higher performance/speed using HSPA at up to 7Mbit/s. Whilst this is indeed higher than might be achieved outdoors (many users are experiencing actual rates in the low Mbit/s today), it is dwarfed by the peak rates of WiFi at 54Mbit/s. However, for typical services, this is more than adequate.
  • longer battery life than WiFi, due to the inherently more power saving design of cellular.

ip.access has prepared an example video of these scenarios in action:

{youtube} -W_PhU-kGXo  {/youtube }

Are these compelling enough arguments to buy a femtocell? Certainly there is am enormous amount of investment in home networks from the likes of Microsoft. However there is also strong growth in cloud computing, whereby your data is stored offsite and available anywhere, anytime.

We've discussed and commented on the application for home network entertainment hubs and femtocells already.

In a domestic environment, controlling your TV from your mobile might be a neat party trick, but might be awkward if you want to mute the TV to answer a phone call.

Uploading or downloading of data to a smartphone/portable device (rather than a laptop) can be done over the external network at a convenient time for the operator (e.g. slowly overnight or when in range of a high capacity macrocell). This data doesn't have to be stored on your home network, and indeed some prefer the idea of offsite storage which can be accessed from anywhere. This might not be true for very high volume data (e.g. HD videos viewed on your home TV) but mobile devices typically can only handle lower resolutions and so can be streamed the data or display the photos from anywhere.

WIth the ever increasing scope of capabilities for mobile phones, from payment through multimedia and location services, no doubt there will be further developments and this is an area to watch.

 

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