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.

"Google fired a shot heard 'round the world, and now a second American company has answered the call to defend the rights of the Chinese people." -- Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.)
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