Personal base station eliminates roaming costs

A Google-backed startup in the UK has launched a personal femtocell which allows travelers to make and receive calls without paying roaming charges.

Ubiquisys says its ‘attocell’ was primarily designed for the iPhone, but works out of the box with any 3G phone, and has been tested with Blackberry, Nokia and Android phones.

“At Ubiquisys we are constantly developing new ways to harness intelligent cell technology,” says Chris Gilbert, CEO of Ubiquisys. “The attocell innovation is a direct response to meet a specific requirement from mobile operators.”

He says the company’s talking to several operators about the product.

The attocell connects to a user’s laptop via a USB link, which provides power and an internet connection.  It then analyses the IP address and radio environment to determine which country it’s in, and sets its 3G radio power accordingly to just below the licensed level. 

This varies, meaning that while in some countries it can cover a whole room, in others the range will be limited to as little as 5mm. When this is the case, the traveler places the phone on top of the device and the phone connects automatically. 

Calls can be made using a Bluetooth or wired headset, or by using the phone’s speaker.

The attocell continuously monitors its radio environment to ensure that there’s no impact on existing mobile networks.  Ubiquisys says this, combined with its tiny power output, means it should be exempt from regulatory controls and the requirement for type approval.

There’s no word on an expected price.