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
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.