My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: When in Roam (ing) carry a attocell - SnapDragon and The Tourist

Friday, January 28, 2011

When in Roam (ing) carry a attocell - SnapDragon and The Tourist


Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.

Charles d. Warner, In Hartford Courant (c. 1890)

Sounds a lot like the Berlin Wall of International Roaming and International Calling just lost yet another stone: abnormally high fees. It is no secret that Telecom Providers in the United States of America make billions from overcharging from International Calling and roaming. Until now that is!

Not surprisingly for many to learn, Google is behind it, deciding to be a part of the solution instead of complaining of the climate that the Telecom Providers have created with regards to International Roaming and International Calling, Google Voice not withstanding as discovered in my blog article entitled “Google and Google Voice - The World is Not Enough”.

A Silicon Valley start-up, backed by Google called Ubiquisys is marketing a attocell that is so small, it can fit into your carry-on luggage and can travel with you whenever you go on International trips as stated in the article  Coming Next: Carry-on base station for travellers”, published Wednesday January 26 2011 by Tarmo Virki, European Technology Correspondent, REUTERS, Yahoo! News.

What is so big about that? It is the World's first personal base station for International travelers, as other companies such as Huawei, Samsung Alcatel-Lucent and even Cisco Systems already make femtocells – just not for International travelers. This means that a lot of saber-rattleing in board room negotiations may be going as I put pen to paper.

This as yet another stone in the previously impenetrable Berlin Wall for American Telecom Providers which may soon be coming crashing down this Summer of 2011. Contract Plans on smart phones as well as the burgeoning M2M (Machine-to-Machine Communications) of which NFC (Near Field Communications) is a big part may soon be their only bread-and-butter money-maker as opined in my blog article entitled “AT&T, NFC and M2M - Cashless Society and the Internet of Things”.

This means those days of paying for International Roaming or resorting to using Google Voice, Skype or even Satellite Calling may be over, provided that this smartphone-sized doo-hickey, as the Americans are wont to say, that works over Broadband Internet is small enough to fit in your carry-on luggage.

How so quickly many people forget! It was not so long ago that Telecom Providers such as AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile back in 2008 toyed with VERY same idea as stated in the article “Femtocells offer improved Reception - and Revenues”, published October 30, 2008, 5:00PM EST By Roger O. Crockett, INFO TECH - BusinessWeek.

Telecom Providers would sell subsidized CPE (Customer Premises Equipment) device the size of a vertical Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) router that could act in much the same way for their GSM (Global System Mobile) or CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) Network. Femtocells reduces the congestion on their Cell Sites or Node B’s as we Telecom Technicians call them by shunting traffic away from their congested Cell sites.

Somewhat akin to Telecom Provider AT&T providing free Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) in New York and other areas to relieve congestion on their 3G Data Network as stated in the article “AT&T expands free Wi-Fi Hot Zone Trial”, published July 26, 2010 12:14 PM PDT by Marguerite Reardon, CNET News - Signal Strength.

Femtocells are effectively a mini-cell tower or Node B in your home. It would extend the Telecom Providers Network without them having to shell out upwards of US$500,000 to improve their Network coverage. Better yet, the customer would have to pay US$100 or less for the device and monthly fees to host the device in their houses.

Well, the American customers smelt a rat. Was not the improvement of the Telecom Provider’s Network responsibility of the Telecom Provider? Why do we have to pay to expand their Network, never mind our opposition to the construction of new Cell Sites? Analyst at Informa spoke the obvious to Reporter Roger O. Crockett, quote: “There's a dirty little secret. The femtocell benefits the carrier more than the end user”.

So the plan backfired as the word got out that even when subsidized, Telecom Provider would force you to pay a monthly fee or even a contract just to get better service which you are already paying - and not getting. Eventually, AT&T backed down and began issuing letters in July 2010 stating that the femtocells were free as stated in the article “Ask and ye shall receive a free AT&T femtocell?” published July 12, 2010 3:22 PM PDT by Stephen Shankland, CNET News - Deep Tech.

Guess in the end Telecom Provider AT&T got the much desired improvement in coverage and thus reduction in congestion and customers got the satisfaction of being able to finally get rid of their old Landline. Win-win all around! So this announcement of an even smaller version of a femtocell, called an attocell that works exactly the same way, is a welcome delight to the ears of the International Jetsetter, The Tourist (2010)!

Truly, this is truly a SnapDragon (1993) that you can put in you bonnet while on some on International locale on your vacation abroad, as you do not have to worry about Roaming Charges. The bigger implication, however, is for International Calling, as possibly this device can work here in Jamaica, giving Jamaicans yet another tool along with Google Voice, Skype and the Magic Jack to make foreign calls.
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