Verizon has a new, $250 router-sized device that will boost cell phone signals inside the home, promising connections that will make it easier to dump that old-school landline.
The catch with the Wireless Network Extender is that it requires connection to a broadband Internet line. While the idea seems like another VoIP gimmick, the company stated earlier today that the WNE is ideal for homes where location, geography, or structural conditions interfere with reception. Unfortunately, the device only works with Verizon phones, however the company said that Verizon Wireless customers will not be charged any additional monthly fees to use the WNE.
“Our new Network Extender device will bring the full benefit of the Verizon Wireless voice network to the small but important segment of customers who may experience a weaker signal in their homes because of geographic or structural conditions,” said Jack Plating, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Verizon Wireless. “Current and prospective customers have told us they want this, and we are responding to that demand. For those who have wanted to sign up for Verizon Wireless service but hesitated because of reception problems unique to their home location, this is the answer.”
The device, manufactured by Samsung, serves as a "mini-cell site" (femtocell), routing Verizon Wireless calls through the customer's broadband connection (minimum speed of 300 kbps is required). According to the company, the WNE provides coverage in an area up to 5,000 square feet. However, it does not support EV-DO speeds and services that require it, V Cast and Location Based Services (VZ Navigator, Chaperone). Verizon said that consumers could still use those services, but only from the nearest Verizon Wireless cell tower.
Last year, Sprint began selling a similar device, the Airwave (also made by Samsung), for $100, but charges an extra $5 a month for its use. AT&T plans to release a femtocell as well, and is currently testing the technology in employees' homes, however unlike the other two, AT&T's femtocells will support 3G data connections. According to the Associated Press, T-Moblie USA chose not to take the femtocell route, and instead expand indoor coverage using Wi-Fi routers.
But even though the new WNE device has its limits, Plating seems optimistic about its benefits. "It’s like getting a million-dollar cell site in your home for $249.99,” he said. “Network Extender makes Verizon Wireless’ reliable network even more reliable, filling in nooks and crannies for customers who see the need.”