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Vodafone to launch mini mobile-phone tower for the home

In July, Vodafone will launch Europe's first femtocell, a booster that plugs into your broadband line to give you better mobile-phone coverage in your home

We have to lean out the kitchen window to get a signal in our lead-lined bunker of a flat, so we're interested to hear that Vodafone is releasing a signal booster for people who live in similar mobile-phone notspots.

On 1 July, Vodafone will be the first European network to launch a femtocell -- the Vodafone Access Gateway. Femtocells are modem-sized devices that plug into your home broadband line, boosting the mobile-phone signal in your house.

The Vodafone Access Gateway will allow four simultaneous voice calls at a time, and will support the whole range of Vodafone services on your phone. You'll have to register the mobile numbers that you want to use with the gateway, lest your neighbours attempt to piggyback on your femtocell.

But you'll have to pay for it. You can rent an Access Gateway from £5 per month, or make a one-off purchase for £160. You can also get one as part of a phone contract, starting at £15 per month. You'll also have to pay for, and maintain, your own broadband connection. 

Is this just networks fobbing off the price of improving their coverage to the punters, rather than getting the job done themselves? Vodafone told us that it's working hard to improve coverage, but, because of geographical and architectural quirks -- like our tinfoil-wrapped panic room -- there are some places that it struggles to penetrate. For people who live in remote places, or in the concrete and steel jungle, it may be worth shelling out.

You can order the Vodafone Access Gateway from 1 July on Vodafone's Web site or in Vodafone stores.