Vodafone Italia has released a new broadband switch/router for the home that could be a key enabler of future fixed-mobile convergence. The carrier's Station box, developed with Huawei Technologies, is for use with ADSL2+ broadband connection and extends WiFi or Ethernet coverage throughout the home, but most notably, it can deliver 3G connectivity to Vodafone's wireless network via a USB connection. The switch/router supports seamless switching between wireline broadband and wireless, so Vodafone's 3G coverage could piggyback its way into customer homes. T-Mobile USA offered a somewhat similar take on FMC with a low-key rollout of VoIP and wireless over broadband in Dallas and Seattle earlier this year.
One of the differences with Vodafone is that if Vodafone expands availability of the station to other markets, it could do so in areas where it increasingly is becoming a wireline broadband provider through acquisition, meaning it can own both the coverage within the home and the broadband pathway into it. The recent wireline acquisition strategy and this pursuit of FMC could very well be remembered as hallmarks of the Arun Sarin era now ending its run at Vodafone.
On another note, could such strategies, if they catch on with carriers, be dangerous to the health of vendors who have bet on femtocell technology? I am not sure, but I am hoping to ask a few industry experts their opinions on the matter when I moderate a femtocell panel on Wednesday, June 18 at NXTcomm in Las Vegas. Hope to see you there. (How's that for a shameless plug?)