Mark Bridge writes:
Today I've been using my mobile phone at home. For many people that’s not an unusual thing to do – but it is for me because, around here, coverage indoors isn’t particularly good. Downstairs it’s previously been non-existent.
But this morning everything changed. That’s when my Vodafone Sure Signal femtocell arrived. A femtocell is like having your own mobile phone transmitter. Instead of being a cellsite, it looks a bit like a bookend – the size of my broadband router if you balanced it on its side – and instead of connecting directly to the mobile network, it plugs into that home broadband router.
The result is impressive. About half an hour after setting it up, I’m now getting full 3G service – 'five bars' – when before I’d been lucky to get two bars of GPRS upstairs with the window open.
And what’s just as impressive is the speed of delivery. I ordered it at around 4.30pm yesterday and it arrived a couple of minutes after eight this morning.
The Sure Signal was originally called the Vodafone Access Gateway but the name’s recently been changed – and the price has been dropped as well.
If you’re an existing Vodafone customer and you pay more than £25 a month line rental – which I do – the device now costs a one-off £50. It needs to be ordered online and it also needs to be set-up online – and that was the only complicated part. Not setting up the device itself but what’s not completely clear is that you also need to set up your entire Vodafone account online. If you’re not already using Vodafone’s online account management, that’ll take you a few minutes - and I didn’t find the experience particularly straightforward. Even though – for example – I knew what an MSISDN was, finding where to enter my number on the website took a while.
But that’s all done now. You need to register mobile numbers on the Sure Signal – which means your neighbours don’t inadvertently benefit from the improved coverage – and it can handle four mobile phone calls simultaneously, although up to 32 devices can be registered.
My only complaint now is the slightly niggling feeling that I’ve paid Vodafone £50 so I can potentially make more calls and use more data… which is even more money for Vodafone. Then again, at least I had the choice. Had I been using any other UK network, I could still be running upstairs every time I wanted to send a text.