Print 11 comment(s) - last by name99.. on Jan 26 at 4:04 PM

Personal femtocell for travelers to be unveiled at Mobile World Congress

The argument that technology is making our world smaller has been bandied around for years. Thanks to the femtocell company Ubiquisys, proponents of that statement now have even more firepower. The British company has developed the world's first base station for international travelers, allowing them to make mobile phone calls without the added international roaming rates.

In a press release, Ubiquisys calls it an attocell -- a personal femtocell -- that was developed specifically for the iPhone, but works with any 3G-enabled device. It's been tested on BlackBerry, Nokia, and Android smartphones.

Here's how the attocell works: The device, slightly larger than a smartphone itself, connects to an internet-enabled laptop or PC via USB cable. It analyzes the IP and radio environment to determine what country it is in, and then sets its 3G radio power to just below the licensed level. It continuously monitors the radio environment to ensure that there is no impact on the mobile network.

There is one downside, though. In some countries, the attocell's range will only be about 5mm. A smartphone would have to be laid directly on top of the attocell -- it connects automatically, like a femtocell -- and the user would have to either use a Bluetooth or wired headset, or speakerphone to make calls. But it sure beats paying upwards of $2 per minute to make the same call otherwise. And the range limit will not exist in other countries, where it could broadcast to cover an entire room.

According to Reuters, Ubiquisys already has the backing of Google, as well as Accel Partners, Advent Venture Partners, Atlas Venture, T-Mobile's venture fund, SerComm Corp., and UMC Capital Corporation. Despite slow adoption, industry analysts predict the market for femtocells to top $1 billion in the next few years.

Ubiquisys is set to showcase the attocell in February at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

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By quiksilvr on 1/26/2011 9:16:49 AM , Rating: 2
Couldn't it just emit a WiFi signal, then you can use an SIP number fused with Google Voice on your smartphone? That seems like a much more affordable solution than this.

RE: Uh...
By Murloc on 1/26/2011 9:35:15 AM , Rating: 3
yeah, or use skype.
there's some market for this stuff though.

RE: Uh...
By Pjotr on 1/26/2011 9:38:05 AM , Rating: 2
And why would you need this device if you want to emit a WiFi signal? Supposedly the laptop already is on a WiFi, connect to that. Alternatively, if the laptop is on ethernet, share the WiFi from the laptop directly instead. No need for this device then.

RE: Uh...
By quiksilvr on 1/26/2011 10:35:58 AM , Rating: 2
It's even more of a head scratcher because if you are already using a laptop with working internet, why not just make the call from your laptop? Use Google Voice via Gmail Chat. Free calls to the US and Canada and cheap international rates. I honestly see no purpose for this device the more I think about it.

RE: Uh...
By bug77 on 1/26/2011 10:51:37 AM , Rating: 5
I honestly see no purpose for this device the more I think about it.

The article clearly states it was designed to be used together with an iPhone. Does it make sense now?

RE: Uh...
By theapparition on 1/26/2011 12:59:51 PM , Rating: 2
Yep. Has Google Voice ever made it over to Steve's playground yet?

RE: Uh...
By name99 on 1/26/2011 4:04:13 PM , Rating: 2
Yes. And skype.

Next stupid question?

I'm with the people who see this as a completely pointless box. Every normal person on earth who knows enough to want to avoid the cost of international roaming knows about skype by now.

needs a laptop?
By strikeback03 on 1/26/2011 9:24:23 AM , Rating: 2
If I need a laptop connected to the internet to use this I'd probably just as soon use Skype or similar and skip the added expense and complexity of this.

RE: needs a laptop?
By kmmatney on 1/26/2011 1:33:25 PM , Rating: 3
Exactly. I was on Taiwan for a 3 week trip, and just used Skype for free calls from the Hotel to co-corkers, and called my home landline for $0.02 a minute. Sound quality was great.

By Warwulf on 1/26/2011 11:27:26 AM , Rating: 3
Okay, so it can put out a signal on the frequency. But how will it interface with carriers subscriber information to allow it to connect and bill the customer normal minutes as opposed to roaming rates?

T-mobile has had UMA for years that works over practically any wifi network. AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint has had femtocells for a year now. This is all technology we have now and is OLD NEWS. The only thing new would be if wireless companies gave up a big cash cow, such as roaming charges, and allowed these devices to run on their network.

In the meanwhile, just call forward to a magic jack and take that with you where you go. You can even connect a wireless handset so you're not limited to 5mm.

Fail product is fail.

RE: *yawn*
By DanNeely on 1/26/2011 3:07:09 PM , Rating: 2
Okay, so it can put out a signal on the frequency. But how will it interface with carriers subscriber information to allow it to connect and bill the customer normal minutes as opposed to roaming rates?

The same way a conventional femtocell authenticates to the provider over the internet to let you talk on their network in areas where they don't have coverage.

“So far we have not seen a single Android device that does not infringe on our patents." -- Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith
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