Ubiquisys is a company that specializes in femtocells, the little boxes that people plug into their home broadband connection that then acts as a mini cell tower, giving you bars in places where before you’ve stood with nothing but tears in your eyes and hate in your heart because your local operator isn’t doing their job. Today they’ve announced something that they’re calling an “attocell”, which they refer to as “a personal femtocell”. It’s meant for people who travel abroad, and here’s how it works in a nutshell: you plug a small device into your laptop via USB, said small device draws power from the USB port and also steals a little bit of internet traffic, then it emits a signal your phone can pick up, and boom, you’ve got a little cell tower sticking out the side of your machine. That’s it. The attocell goes online once it’s connected, finds out which country it’s in, and then adjusts the power levels accordingly. In some countries you may need to keep your mobile phone an inch or two away from the attocell, in others you’ll blanket the room you’re in with coverage.
“At Ubiquisys we are constantly developing new ways to harness intelligent cell technology,” said Chris Gilbert, CEO Ubiquisys. “The attocell innovation is a direct response to meet a specific requirement from mobile operators.” Ummm, what? Which operators are complaining about charging their users insane roaming fees, just because they can? If the goal is to get users accustomed to having voice/sms/internet access on their device when they’re in their hotel room on a business trip, and then using their device while out on the town, racking up small miscellaneous fees, then the attocell is a brilliant idea.
Here’s a business model I’d like to see: all calls, texts, and mobile data consumed via femtocells, including attocells, should be free of charge. Maybe then we’ll see netbook adoption skyrocket as people start snatching them up in droves to save money when they’re in a bar or cafe.