Motorola boosts indoor mobile coverage

The telecoms hardware maker has come up with a potential solution to the problem of patchy 3G coverage within buildings

Motorola has developed a high-speed mobile access point that could provide much better network coverage indoors.

The AXPT is designed to be installed within a building. It addresses one key weakness of third-generation mobile networks — the quality of service deteriorates strongly when the user is indoors.

If it catches on, the device could help mobile operators to steal customers and market share from Wi-Fi, which already provides high-speed access at indoor hot spots.

The AXPT supports />HSDPA/>, an enhancement to 3G which is capable of speeds in excess of 3Mbps in lab conditions.

Several mobile operators, including Vodafone, are showing strong interest in HSDPA, and Motorola is hoping they will be keen to offer their subscribers — especially mobile workers — good reception when indoors.

"The enterprise market offers a significant revenue opportunity for operators looking to grow 3G business and deliver new mobile broadband services with HSDPA," said Raghu Rau, Motorola's senior vice-president for global marketing and strategy, in a statement.

"Businesses in particular want convenience, with one device, one bill, one provider for all communication services, one contact point to the provider and the same experience on the move and within buildings," Rau added.

Analyst group Ovum believes that mobile operators who want to install the AXPT within buildings could face some tricky problems.

"To offer this indoor capability a mobile operator would need the enterprise's approval to install its equipment and eventually maintain it. Furthermore, providing indoor capabilities to an entire enterprise site is not an easy task and might require significant network planning efforts for the operator, which could be an opportunity for Motorola to sell professional services," according to Ovum analyst Julien Grivolas.

The first laptops and data cards supporting HSDPA should go on sale this year. ZDNet UK tested the first 3G datacards in 2004, and found that there could be significant problems using the devices indoors.

When the Vodafone data card was tested, a 3G connection could not be made within Kensington Olympia, even though it was well within Vodafone's 3G network.

The AXPT will be officially launched at the 3GSM show in Barcelona next month. Pricing details are not yet available.

A woman sat at a laptop, with a Motorola 3G signal amplifier behind her

A young lady enjoying a more reliable 3G connection indoors,
with the signal amplifier behind her.

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