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Vodafone Slashes Price & Rebrands Home Femtocell Box

Gordon Kelly


Vodafone Slashes Price & Rebrands Home Femtocell Box

Remember the Vodafone Access Gateway? If not, then I suspect it's about to make a better impression second time around...

Now dubbed Vodafone 'Sure Signal' (definitely an improvement), there are two main points to now get across: 1. It uses Femtocell technology to boost the mobile phone reception in your home and, 2. It's now significantly cheaper.

Let's break down point one first. Sure Signal is a small plug-in box that connects to a router to tap directly into your broadband connection (1Mbit minimum speed required) and throws out a local net of 3G reception. As it relies on broadband it doesn't matter if you get no reception at all in your home because the Sure Signal box creates its own. Clever stuff. It can also be registered with up to 32 handsets and used by up to four handsets at any one time. Network problems begone!

Point two: originally the Gateway/Sure Signal box came in at a hefty £160 - or an extra £15pm onto a 12 month contract. Now it is eminently affordable at just £50 (or £5pm over 12 months) for users with price plans of £25pm or more. Less of a saving is the £120 cost (or £5pm over 24 months) for those with price plans under £25pm.

Unfortunately, however, there is a point three. The Sure Signal box can only be used with Vodafone and isn't unlockable - even at the end of a contract. Consequently, an entire household will need to be on Vodafone to all enjoy the benefit.

In theory there is also a point four: just change networks. There is normally at least one network which will have decent reception in your home so work out which that is and save yourself £50. Of course, that isn't always an option for those living in remote areas and for them this will prove a life saver.

Now if only someone could come up with an unlocked femtocell box...


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January 18, 2010, 9:44 pm

Been using one of these for a few months now, it works very well.

Couple of things though:

You're still using your contract minutes for voice and contract data allowance, even though it's routed via your ADSL connection, rather than the carrier's network (a bit cheeky, I'd say)

Your local network needs to be DHCP assigned and not using fixed IP addresses. otherwise it stops being plug&play and gets horribly technical and hit and miss.

Judging by the number of devices coming to market worldwide it looks as if the networks have found a way of extending their coverage and not having to pay for it (well, actually being able to CHARGE their customers for it...)


January 18, 2010, 9:48 pm

Go get one guys, they're brilliant!


January 18, 2010, 10:19 pm

@Floriank: "You're still using your contract minutes for voice and contract data allowance, even though it's routed via your ADSL connection, rather than the carrier's network (a bit cheeky, I'd say)"

Don't forget, there's more to a mobile telco than just the cell towers. You're still using the operator's network to connect your call to the other end, you're just bypassing the initial wireless connection to their network.

So a discount, perhaps? I'd say that's only fair :) . Unlikely though.


January 18, 2010, 11:33 pm

I just don't get femtocells. If my 3G connection isn't great, I will use wifi. Same result and I don't get double charged for the privilege. I can't say I have ever lived anywhere where I can't get some sort of voice connection.


January 19, 2010, 12:06 am

@Snu - the focus is voice. Of course at home you could just use a landline, but so many people are mobile-only these days...


January 19, 2010, 12:08 am

Your local network needs to be DHCP assigned and not using fixed IP addresses. otherwise it stops being plug&play and gets horribly technical and hit and miss.

I wouldnt call it horrible, just go to control panel, network connections, bring up the status of the current connection and copy the settings, picking an IP address in the same domain, just change the last digit to something like 30, that should be fine in the home. Not too bad :)

I would get this in a second but its not just my house I know Vodaphone doesn't work at, its almost half the county!


January 19, 2010, 12:19 am

Hmm I dont buy it, the majority of smartphones have Wi-Fi (and if they dont, dont buy them (/glares at his blackberry storm)) and ADSL users (the vast majority of broadband?) have to have at least line rental to have broadband access anyway, I cant imagine you pay for a landline and dont pay the nominal cost to have a home phone provider really.


January 19, 2010, 1:12 am

I like that they have the sheer guile to charge people per month for these. The network you pay for has crappy reception, but you can pay more money to them and use your own resources to get around this. Now they've put the price down while still restricting the expensive box (which you still have to buy) to the network which doesn't work properly. Woo hoo! Sign me up!

Call me crazy, but monthly contracts and network locking for these devices should be made illegal, it's just taking the piss.

Alistair B

January 19, 2010, 2:10 am

If someone is unable to get mobile service from any of the networks in the remote area they live in then it's also pretty unlikely that they'll be able to get a minimum 1Mb adsl connection, if any at all. Hardly a life saver.


January 19, 2010, 2:32 am


Spot on mate. What a rip off, if people would buy this shit then they have more money than sense!


January 19, 2010, 2:47 am

Means I can do calls and texts in my house, where I have no signal on any network. Yes, WiFi is great for data, and my iPhone still uses WiFi over the 3G so I'm not paying twice for that, but try no calls and texts for hours on end and you'll soon see why it's useful.


January 19, 2010, 2:00 pm

@Floriank said

"You're still using your contract minutes for voice and contract data allowance, even though it's routed via your ADSL connection, rather than the carrier's network"

Does anyone know how you would be charged if you tried to use your UK Vodafone mobile abroad via "Sure Signal"?


January 19, 2010, 2:42 pm

I agree with Jopey,I am fine with the idea of using calls and texts that are included in your mobile contract when using one of these (as pointed out, the network still has to connect your call/text ect), however charging a monthly contract to do it is just taking the mickey really. I know several people who would beneit from this technology (no phone signal but a good broadband connection) but I am not going to recommend they get this until the monthly contract dies a death

Phil 9

January 19, 2010, 2:46 pm

This is an interesting device, not necessarily for improving your signal at home but for being able to take it outside of the country. Say you're visiting relatives in France, you could in theory take this along, plug it into their home DSL and enjoy your usual included talktime, SMS & internet as though you were in the UK. Bye bye ridiculous roaming charges.

Or just use voip.. :)

Gavin Hamer

January 19, 2010, 3:55 pm

These can't be taken abroad. A Vodafone rep states:

"If the Gateway is taken abroad, it will automatically stop radiating signal - so I'm afraid this is not possible."

(source: http://forum.vodafone.co.uk/in... )

I use one of these in a small rural office, where voice calls would not be stable on any network. ADSL runs at about 1.8Mbps, which is fine for this. I don't delude myself that Vodafone should set up a new mast for the few people that live or work around here, obviously it would not make economic sense for them to do that.

Anyway, the positives are that it sets itself up automatically with DHCP, and we now have 100% signal. The only downers are that Google Maps and HTC's location based features get very confused indeed.


January 19, 2010, 4:16 pm

@jopey: Just to play devil's advocate, they're only charging £50 for it, so at least they're chipping in for the device. If they gave them away everyone would want one, regardless of whether they need one. That said, making people with cheap contracts pay more for them is a bit cheeky.

Also, as I understand it, the monthly contract has a finite term, after which the device is yours. You can always buy it outright, the monthly alternative is just another way of gouging the mugs who hate buying anything in one chunk. After that, there's no ongoing charge to use the device.

I also suspect that if you threatened to leave Vodafone due to lousy reception, they would send you one of these for free.

There may also be more work required to use these things on other networks than just simply unlocking them. If the firmware is limited to connecting to Vodafone's network then that's all the box will be good for (until someone figures out how to flash them).


January 19, 2010, 4:19 pm

@Gavin Hamer: In other words, Vodafone have hobbled the device to make sure it won't work abroad. Predictable, I suppose.

I hadn't thought about the impact on location services. Do you know if it also messes up phones that aren't paired with the box?


January 19, 2010, 4:31 pm

Actually, come to think of it you could never use these things abroad as they may transmit on a frequency that's used for other networks or services in that country. That would make it illegal in most countries, so I imagine that getting it to turn off the radio abroad is a design requirement.


January 19, 2010, 10:39 pm

@Chris > You're absolutely right in that legally you cannot transmit UK mobile frequencies in other countries so it's a requirement to prevent international usage.

@Gavin Hamer > This is partially true but you must ensure that you have set the correct postcode for its location. Besides, shouldn't the GPS receivers in most devices give a better location than cell triangulation?

Voice is definitely the main focus as its likely that you would use your WiFi connection instead of 3G data. That said, there may be some network specific services such as MMS, Vodafone's mobile portal and associated downloads that can only be accessed via 3G data rather than WiFi so having access to it is a boon.

I also don't understand why people think they are paying twice. Most mobile tariffs include a bundle of data which you pay for whether you use it or not. Likewise for your broadband connection. It's only if you go over that bundle do you get charged extra but unless your home usage is excessive you shouldn't have any trouble.

Nick 11

January 23, 2010, 5:17 pm

So let me get this straight. You pay them to install hardware on your own internet connection (using your bandwidth) and then pay them again to use it - through a contract.

For the telcos it's win-win. It would be rational if they paid you to install the thing, otherwise any sesnible user would just use the WLAN in most modern phones anda SIP provider like sipgate.

It's one massive con!

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