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Vodafone UKs Access Gateway femtocell has been rebranded as Sure Signal. What prompted the operator to make changes? The femtocell device has hardly been in the market for 6 months now – some would say not enough time for Voda’s customers to get familiar with the device or its functionality. And now the new name?

Is Vodafone expecting a data deluge on its networks post IPhone launch? Is Vodafone one of the first operators to think proactively as opposed to reactively, as has been the case with AT&T in the US till now? Or is it simply the case that Vodafone has a large inventory of Access Gateway devices, which it could not sell?

On the bright side, the femtocell market couldn’t have asked for a better start to 2010. Vodafone, which is one of the worlds largest and most influential operator’s, has literally put its weight behind femtocells and would like to see more of its customers adopting the device in their homes and offices. Finally, there is the operator push that everyone was looking for, the aggressive operator stance that has been missing in this marketplace.

Sure Signal is now being marketed through T-shirts, billboards, the London tube twitter, facebook and is also on the home page of the Vodafone online shop. Sure Signal is the new avatar of the Access Gateway which in some sense was a badly executed launch, with many customers complaining of ‘three day’ waiting times for their femtocell to get activated. Also, the Access Gateway felt like Vodafone were embarrassed to talk about their poor coverage in specific locations or blackspots.

Sure Signal points towards a changed attitude towards femtocells from Vodafone. They are not embarrassed to say that their coverage might be poor when indoors, or in rural areas where there are a limited number of cell phone masts. I think this is a huge leap of faith for any operator. This could be a significant turning point for the femtocell market with other operators following Vodafone by example.

However, there are some parts of the announcement that fall short of my expectations. I will be elaborating on these issues in my upcoming Analyst Insight on the topic. However the central theme is that Vodafone could have used this opportunity explain to ‘first-time’ customers the true value proposition of femtocells. As many of us in the industry know, this extends beyond voice and includes data coverage as well as new and exciting femtozone applications. Could this be seen as a missed opportunity wherein Vodafone could have really transformed how the average mobile consumer views femtocells?