Verizon Offers $250 In-Home Cell Phone Booster

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NEW YORK - Verizon Wireless has started selling a book-sized device that boosts cell phone signals within a home for $250, making it easier for people to drop a home phone line and rely solely on wireless.

The Verizon Wireless Network Extender needs to be connected to a broadband Internet line. Then it acts a miniature cellular tower, listening for signals from a subscriber's cell phone. It covers up to 5,000 square feet, the company said Monday.

Such devices are known as "femtocells." Verizon Wireless, the country's largest carrier, is following in the footsteps of Sprint Nextel Corp., which started selling a femtocell under the Airave brand nationwide last year.

The Airave costs $100, but Sprint charges an extra $5 per month for use. Verizon Wireless is not charging a monthly fee.

AT&T Inc. is testing femtocells in employees' homes, and plans to conduct customer trials in at least one market in the second quarter, spokesman Mark Siegel said.

The Verizon Wireless and Sprint femtocells are made by Samsung Electronics Co. and relay voice and low-speed data connections. The AT&T unit will also relay fast "3G" data connections.

T-Mobile USA has chosen a different technological route to expand indoor coverage. It sells Wi-Fi routers and phones that can place calls over Wi-Fi in addition to regular wireless calls.

Verizon Wireless is a joint venture of Verizon Communications Inc. of New York and Vodafone Group PLC of Britain.