Review: M1’s Femtocell – 9361 Home Cell

M1's Femtocell is a simple device made by Alcatel-Lucent.

M1’s Femtocell is a simple device made by Alcatel-Lucent.

I live in a corner house on the ground floor in the west and M1’s coverage in my home is rather poor. Coverage ranges between one to zero bars on a mobile phone. It’s unfortunate because I almost immediately receive full bars the moment I step out of my house. I’ve tried this with different phones and it has always been the same result. M1’s coverage seemed to completely evaporate the moment I step within my four walls. I made three complaints over the course of late 2013 and was offered in late December 2013 to be placed on the Femtocell programme.

 

What is a Femtocell?

A Femtocell is a small, low-power mobile base station that improves indoor voice coverage and data performance for users. By placing a dedicated Femtocell indoors, it connects to M1’s mobile network via fixed broadband access and addresses any indoor coverage gap. M1 announced on 21 May 2013 that it was rolling out this service island wide to cope with indoor coverage complains. I was not aware of this service until it was offered to me. I was told that M1 would set up a base station in a building that was under construction next to my block of flats to improve coverage in that area. However, from then till the building was completed, I would be out of luck with coverage at home. As such, I decided to take up the offer. It was free and the Femtocell would be on loan until I stopped my subscription with M1 or decided to move to a different location.

 

A Femtocell is a small, low-power mobile base station that expands M1’s coverage via your fixed broadband access.

 

Signing and Setting Up

I was placed on a waiting list in late December 2013 and it was not until late February 2014 that I received a call that I could finally pick up the Femtocell. Even with a heavy work schedule, I decided to pick it up the self same day. I was sick of getting complaints at home that coverage was poor. Picking up the device took some time as the staff had to register the device to my location on top of the usual paper work.

Setting up the device was simple. The device is plugged into one of the spare ports on your home network router. The device takes about 30 minutes to an hour for auto self configuration to be completed. When it is done, M1 sends you an email that the Femtocell has been registered. You restart your phone and you’re good to go. The Femtocell basically acts as an indoor base station running off your home internet service.

 

The Femtocell lights up rather brightly. The leftmost led indicates an ongoing call.

The Femtocell lights up rather brightly. The leftmost led indicates an ongoing call.

Pros and Cons

The obvious benefit here was that my coverage went from zero to full bars. Calls were clear and dropped calls were a thing of the past. The device did what it was supposed to do perfectly. The range of the device was also good. Coverage in a HDB flat was not an issue even though my placement of the device was not optimal. The Femtocell also offers a LAN pass-through meaning that you can connect any LAN enabled device to the Femtocell in case you are short on LAN ports.

The downside is that the model offered for home users (Alcatel-Lucent 9361 Home Cell) is 3G only. This means you will not get LTE coverage via the Femtocell. This is not an issue for most users since the Femtocell falls within the home internet network and you are likely to be connected via WiFi. The other downside is that the device can only accommodate up to four active users. This is not an issue for me but larger families would have trouble placing more than four concurrent phone calls at the same time.

 

If you have trouble accessing M1’s mobile network and you have a home internet service with speeds greater than 4mbps, this is the solution for you.

 

Verdict

Credit to M1 for rolling this out for free. There are no fees and you simply have to return the device in a good condition without missing accessories to avoid any compensation fees. The device does what it sets out to do and is a welcome relief for those who have trouble connecting M1’s mobile service at home. The device is pretty much targeted at providing good call and SMS connectivity as you are unlikely to use data over this since you would be within a home internet network.

If you have trouble accessing M1’s mobile network and you have a home internet service with speeds greater than 4mbps, this is the best (and possibly only) solution M1 has for you.



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