I've used wireless 3G services since 2004, and I've seen the experience degrade over time as demand for these networks has outstripped supply. More people have discovered the joys of using the Internet everywhere, which has led to growth in adoption and more devices with embedded 3G radios. In turn, carriers are unable to balance the growing demand with their limited supply. And it's not just data traffic that's causing problems — it's all too common for voice calls to be dropped due by overwhelmed networks or limited geographic coverage. But without billions of dollars in additional infrastructure investment, carrier networks are limited to their fixed coverage areas. In an effort to limit network expansion (and its associated costs), carriers are starting to push femtocells as a solution for poor coverage in the home. These router-sized devices are essentially miniature cellular base stations that use a pre-existing broadband connection for backhaul. The potential market ranges from home users to small businesses where people use a cellphone in lieu of a fixed landline. From the user perspective, femtocells mean more reliable phone service. From the carrier's point of view, femtocells offer bits of targeted network expansion where it's needed most, and at a relatively small cost. But can fixed-base femtocells really rescue us from the plights of cellular constraints?
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