Femtocells are mini cellphone repeaters that are supposed to improve cell reception in homes and businesses. Like T-Mobile’s Hotspot@Home, femtocells allow smaller devices to most of the heavy lifting for carriers, reducing strain on an already over-worked cellular infrastructure.
It seems AT&T is looking at building a femtocell network by supplying consumers with the cells in their homes. The cells don’t use UMA or Wi-Fi, so almost any AT&T phone will work with them. I’ve seen a few examples, including a box from Samsung that is about is big as a standard wireless router and could enable cell access out in underserved areas. Most of them still require a broadband connection, though, so it’s not totally off the grid.
This is obviously still in its early stages, but its an interesting move.