This improves services for other users and delays the inevitable investment in capacity upgrades to their networks. And they get to charge customers for the femtocell, up to $240 in Optus' case.
And what do users gain? Nothing except the quality of coverage that, arguably the network should provide. Not to mention more likelihood of gobbling up their monthly broadband data quota - according to Optus the addition of femtocell puts a base load of about 1GB per month on the broadband connection, before the owner even starts to use it in anger.
In short the benefits of femtocells are heavily stacked in favour of mobile network operators. Perhaps operators should be giving them away? Seriously
In mid 2009 the Femto Forum released a research paper which found that the cost savings associated with offloading as little as 1.4GB of HSPA data per month via a femtocell from a coverage-constrained macro cellular network would justify an operator offering a subscriber a free femtocell.
"For a small but rapidly growing segment of heavy wireless data users an operator can easily halve the cost of delivering wireless data at home or in the office by offloading traffic from the macro cellular network onto a femtocell," it concluded.
Around about that time I asked Telstra CTO Hugh Bradlow about Telstra's view on femtocells. He replied that they are deployed to either improve depth or capacity of the main network, neither of which was a problem for Telstra. Given the surge in data volumes, that view may well have changed.
However he added a caveat, saying that femtocells were also emerging as platforms for new applications in the home and as they matured in this direction Telstra would look seriously at them.
The Femto Forum's vice-chairman and head of its Services Special Interest Group, Andy Germano, said: "There is a major opportunity for operators to start offering unique new applications. Already in Japan, we are seeing mobile operators offering commercial, revenue-generating applications that send an SMS to parents when children arrive home from school. The number of potential applications enabled by this new and exciting API is literally endless."
ABI Research agrees, in a report published in January it said: "Femtocells'¦initial use-case has been to enhance indoor cellular coverage, but it is now clear that their potential utility is much wider. It is based on 'femtozone services' that use key attributes such as location and presence to trigger innovative applications residing on the mobile device, or in the access point, the core gateway, or the cloud."
ABI suggested: "femtozone applications [that] can turn on lights or activate security systems...can be used to sync content between mobile phones and other devices in the home such as TVs, laptops and media players'¦[or] can even allow remote access to digital content stored at home.
I wonder what applications Optus has up its sleeve. Maybe it could have offered something to sweeten that $240 pill.