For many people, cell phone reception is poor at home. Don’t worry though, most of us still have a landline phone that gives us great reception there. Of course, that’s an additional cost, a separate number, additional phones, the inconvenience of two bills, etc.
Certainly many people have employed amplifiers to try and improve their cell phone signal, but these have very mixed results at home and certainly rarely result in the ability or desire to eliminate the added expense of a landline phone.
However, there are at least a couple of possible solutions that are still evolving that can eliminate these problems. Both options work by switching cellular calls to the user’s broadband connection once they are home. These are essentially VoIP calls, but they are made through an individual’s cell phone provider, so there is a single bill and a seamless transition when switching from a cellular connection to their IP service. This allows mobile phone calls to be made uninterrupted and the user does not have to do anything to switch calls.
The first option, one used by the T-Mobile HotSpot @Home service, requires the use of a hybrid phone that can work from both a cellular network and Wi-Fi. Calls are switched to Wi-Fi in the home and also at any HotSpot locations found in various public and retail facilities. Users must have a cell phone / Wi-Fi and a wireless router at home. The cost of the T-Mobile HotSpot @ Home is $ 19.99 / month when added to eligible individual plans and $ 29.99 / month when added to family plans. It gives users excellent reception and the ability to save on calls with unlimited domestic calls over their Wi-Fi network day or night.
Another emerging option is the use of a “Femtocell”; a type of base station that connects to users’ broadband connection allowing calls to be made from there. Sprint currently offers these devices to customers in only a handful of test markets, but it may be poised to expand the program in the near future. This option gives users a larger selection of cell phones to choose from, but requires the purchase of Femtocell. The Sprint program currently offers the devices for $ 50 and users then pay $ 15 / month for unlimited calls.
Obviously, the additional monthly fee for any of these programs is significant over time, but it is certainly less than what most users are paying for their current landline. Of course, for all of this to hit the general market, other cell phone providers will need to start offering similar services. Verizon has in fact announced that it plans to introduce femtocells for customer use before the end of 2008 and AT&T is known to have been investigating the possibility for the past year. With all this activity, it seems that getting good call quality at home will no longer need a landline phone in the near future.