Sprint offering 3G femtocells if you qualify

Sprint will give you its EV-DO-capable Airave Access Point for free, but only if you qualify.

Nicole Lee Former Editor
Nicole Lee is a senior associate editor for CNET, covering cell phones, Bluetooth headsets, and all things mobile. She's also a fan of comic books, video games, and of course, shiny gadgets.
Nicole Lee
Sprint's new Airave Access Point

Sprint has confirmed with CNET that it's starting to ship 3G-capable femtocells, but only to qualified customers. Like the previous 2G Airave, the Airave Access Point acts as a mini cell tower using your home or office broadband connection to help boost voice and data coverage. The primary difference between the two is that the Airave Access Point supports EV-DO while the older Airave only supports up to CDMA 1x.

Sprint spokesman Mark Elliott did tell us, however, that the Airave Access Point is not actually available for purchase. If you have specific coverage issues in your building, you need to inquire with Sprint to see if you qualify--if you do, Sprint will give the Airave Access Point to you for free. Once you end the service, though, you'll have to return the femtocell to Sprint. As for whether you have to pay for the service, Sprint says that they evaluate your eligibility for a free service on a case-by-case basis.

Sprint is still selling its old Airave femtocells, however. As a reminder, those cost $99.99 retail, plus there's a $4.99 a month charge for "Enhanced Coverage." After that, you would need to activate either a $10 a month Single Line Unlimited Calling Plan or a $20 a month Multi-Line Unlimited Calling Plan for those who use family plans.

Sprint is only the second carrier to offer a 3G femtocell after AT&T's own 3G Microcell.