At $199 and with mandatory flat data rates, millions of iPhones 3G will soon boost the data traffic of UMTS networks. Om Malik wonders whether AT&T UMTS network will be up to the task, specially as the interest on video (YouTube) from iPhone users will grow with 3G.
An UMTS network has two main bottlenecks: 1) the radio interface, limited by the available spectrum, 2) the backhaul of a Node-B/Base Station that covers a certain area (usually limited to 10-15 Mbps). As traffic grows, additional Node-Bs need to be deployed.
Femtocells* are a great fit for iPhone 3G. I am unaware of the details of AT&T plans on Femto, but with the launch of iPhone 3G with flat data rates, Femto is an excellent option for AT&T to avoid iPhones congesting the radio access and backhaul while at home. Not only that, Femto helps fight churn, as if an user has an AT&T femtocell, chances are all the family member will have an AT&T mobile phone too.
For the users Femtocells have also interesting advantages, specially related to FemtoZone features such as: lower tariffs when calling/called at home on the mobile, SMS notifications when your kids enter/leave home or unlimited data at home.
Femto also enable innovative features related to call routing: what about when someone calls your AT&T fixed line, all mobile phones that are physically at home ring, so anyone can answer depending on the Caller ID displayed in the TV via U-verse? or the other way around, if no mobile phone is at home, the call to the fixed line is routed to one of the mobiles? All this can be user configurable from a web admin tool that, by the way, you can also configure from your iPhone.
Not a bad idea if AT&T bundles Femtocells with iPhone 3G family subscriptions.
* Femtocells are 3G base-stations that users install at home (similar to a Wifi router) to provide 3G coverage back-hauled by the broadband line (ADSL, Cable or Fiber)