In a move that turns the femtocell market on its head, SFR this week launched SFR Femto, a free femtocell for all customers. SFR is France’s second-largest mobile operator with over 21 million subscribers, approximately half of which are 3G users.
The femtocell is being offered for free to all customers. There is a one-off payment of €49 which is refunded automatically on activation. This service is the first universal free offer in Europe and follows the world’s first free model launched by SoftBank Mobile in Japan.
The femtocell itself is a ground-breaking device. It works as a neat standalone device to connect to standard ADSL routers from any ISP. But for users of SFR’s latest multi-function ADSL device, the Neufbox Evolution, the SFR Femto converts into a click-on USB accessory, preserving a one-box solution with no extra cables.
The Future of Femtocells?
There are several interesting aspects of SFR Femto that might point towards the future of femtocells. One is how femtocells are offered to customers. The benefits of femtocells are migrating from a “coverage fix” for problem homes, to a universal offer of a premium indoor experience. This is important as consumers increasingly consider mobile network quality in their choice of operator.
Another aspect is that this femtocell was specifically designed by SFR, both to meet market requirements and to integrate with the rest of the fixed-broadband-media device range. This is a sign that femtocells have entered the mainstream of consumer electronics, increasingly integrated and bundled with other devices, but also following the same consumer-led design and supply process.