Embarq has filed a patent at the U.S Patent and Trademark Office for a universal femtocell that will work with any carrier. The patent application states, “… the universal femto cell are provided such that the femto cell is configurable according to the user’s choice of wireless carriers.” Basically, femtocells create a ‘mini’ cell tower within a home/business, using the customer’s broadband connection to carry their wireless traffic, which removes it off wireless carrier’s cell tower infrastructure. It’s actually a great deal for wireless carriers – they charge customers to remove traffic off their network and offload it onto a broadband carrier’s. Femtocells are a relatively young trend, with Sprint and Verizon offering solutions today.
The Embarq femtocell patent approach could shift the young femtocell paradigm. Currently, wireless carriers offer the solution to their customers. Embarq’s patent suggests that customers could buy a femtocell and select the wireless carrier of their choice. Should that become reality, wireline carriers could conceivably begin marketing femtocells to their broadband customers. That could be particularly useful for broadband carriers who do not/cannot offer a wireless solution. It could be offered as a ‘voice’ value added service for broadband, allowing broadband carriers to offer a voice service to ‘cord cutters’ and generate some revenue in the process.
Truth be told, it’s a long shot. All we have so far is an Embarq patent application – a long way from a commercial solution. Additionally, such a solution would require wireline and wireless carriers to collaborate. We’re not sure there is a compelling reason for them to do so – unless they’re mandated to do so by some regulator. If that happens, and this Embarq patent application is approved, Embarq, or perhaps CenturyTel, could benefit greatly.