I have been following bearer aware femtocell applications for some time.
My overall vision is: It is hard to sell capabilities of networks themselves(or for that matter to charge for networks). However, Operators can sell services. Customers understand services. They are used to paying for them. The basic version of the service could be free followed by some premium features.
From a mobile perspective, services could be:
a) Long tail i.e. completely decoupled from the device or the network(this is mainly in appstores)
b) Coupled to the device – ex deep integration of a web service to the device(ex address book integration of facebook(INQ1) or Skype(N97)
c) Coupled to the network
Learning from Amazon (and the Web 2.0 in general), the more the customer interacts with the provider, the better the service could be because the provider captures insights and preferences from the customer and can use them to enhance the service.
I have covered (a) and (b) extensively before. There were not many examples of (c) i.e. services coupled to networks.
In one sense, services should not be coupled to networks. However, femtocells could provide an exception to this model by creating services which could be useful to the customer. From an Operator standpoint, they provide an opportunity for customers to stay on their network longer and to provide services that can be improved by usage.
As per the femtocell forum : Femtocells are low-power wireless access points that operate in licensed spectrum to connect standard mobile devices to a mobile operator’s network using residential DSL or cable broadband connections
Customers use mobile phones in the home, even when there’s a fixed line available. Friends and family usually call a mobile number first, and it’s where messages and contact lists are stored. Femtocells are important to the Operator because mobile operators can get a share of the fixed call revenues. A study from ABI Research says that that by 2011 there will be 102 million users of femtocell products on 32 million access points worldwide.
Femtocells also fit in well with LTE (4G networks) providing in building coverage and offloading high traffic coverage to the femtocell network.
Services based on femtocells would need to be ‘bearer aware’ i.e. detect that the network has switched to femtocell from 3G or vice versa. This translates to the customer being ‘at home’ (or at work – depending on the femtocell’). What services are possible from bearer aware scenarios?
Some examples from the from the femtocells forum
Femtocells enable all kinds of new services to be created for your mobile phone when it’s at home. Example femtozone services could include:
• Virtual home number (rings all mobile phones currently in the home), allowing families to keep a home number even if they cancel their fixed line phone.
• Get automatic SMS alerts when your kids arrive or depart the home, providing reassurance for working parents.
• Automatic “I’m at home” profile / presence update on social networking websites.
• Automatic back-up of photos and videos from your phone to the web and / or your PC when you arrive at home.
• Automatic podcast reload on your phone when you get home, avoiding the hassle of having to manually synchronise with a PC.
Future generations of femtocells will connect your mobile phone to your home network, allowing you to do many things such as play a slide show of photos from your phone on your TV, stream videos from your Digital Video Recorder to view on your phone, and use your phone to control other devices in the home (e.g. to instruct the Hi-Fi system to play music stored on a home computer or media server
We could extend this idea to any web service (specifically twitter) i.e. femtocells basically could create a location version of any web service
For starters, we could start with two 'places' we all most spend time at: Home and work. Then, when we roam into these cells - the phone could trigger messages from these services (just like the facebook fridge reminders). Over time, we could extend this idea to other femtocells in other locations (ex cinema)
See this video for facebook and femtocells to get an idea(thanks to Andy Tiller – femto forum board member for the links)