This US based nationwide CDMA operator is the 3rd largest mobile network provider with some 50 million subscribers. It was the first operator to launch femtocell service in September 2007, with the Airave product, initially in Denver and Indianapolis, with nationwide commercial launch on 17 August 2008. A 3G CDMA femtocell product was launched in 2010 from a different vendor.
Samsung provided their Ubicell 2G CDMA solution for the initial trials and launch since 2007. When a 3G CDMA standard emerged, Airvana and Tatara were selected to provide the solution - they being the only vendors offering a standards compliant product at that time.
Samsung has developed 3G CDMA products in 2010 - but these are not compliant with the 3G CDMA Femtocell standard, and so were not deployed by Sprint.
Sprint have said they will continue to support customers who already have the 2G CDMA product but further developments will be based on the 3G model.
Sprint are one of the largest femtocell deployments with a figure of 250,000 installed units being quoted at the end of 2010 - the vast majority being 2G Samsung units. ATT Wireless would be the only network likely to have a larger installed base of femtocells.
The price of the device is $99.99 plus a $4.99 monthly fee. An optional $10 unlimited calling plans is available ($20 for multi-line). The primary benefit is promoted as voice coverage in poor coverage areas.
The earlier 2G system was based on CDMA 1xRTT technology, providing only 2G voice/text messaging. The newer 3G product supports EV-DO but is compatable with all of Sprint's existing CDMA handsets (it won't work with Nextel), and is ideal for voice in poor coverage areas .
- up to 3 simultaneous voice calls
- works with any Sprint CDMA phone, although access can be limited to a list of up to 50 phones by calling customer care
- connects to the Sprint central network via broadband IP
- notifies users that they are making/receiving a call via the femtocell by injecting a brief tone at the start of the call
- Voice calls are free on unlimited call plans which cost an extra $15/month (or $30/month for multiple phones), but visitors pay at their standard rates
- SMS, picture messaging and data services are charged at standard rates
- E911 emergency calls are supported, although the location of the caller may not be passed onto the emergency service.
- Handover to the external network is possible when leaving the femtocell, although handover into the cell is unsupported.
- Built-in GPS receiver which confirms the location of the femtocell and enforces use only in areas where Sprint has a licence (so you can't take this abroad/away with you and use broadband in other areas/countries). This does mean the unit typically needs to be near a window to receive the GPS signal - it won't work without it.
- Claimed coverage area up to 5000 square feet.
Consumer report about installation, use and benefits of the Airave - Chris Chavez from androidme.com includes a video showing his setup and discusses the solution (2G version).
Here's a review of the 3G Airave, which this customer got for free