Ubiquisys has announced a new smartphone accessory – the attocell. This remarkable device is a personal mobile phone signal, with a range so tiny it can be used anywhere that your laptop has an internet connection. It provides a great mobile service anywhere in the world, and calls are made and received as though on the home country network. But how does it work? Read on to find out more…
Why is it called an attocell?
The term atto means 10-18, which is a bit smaller than femto, which is 10-15. The term was already being used to describe a personal femto, we just made the technology work. Just like the word femto, we expect atto to remain an industry term, not a consumer product name.
Isn’t the attocell just a very small femtocell?
No. Some femtocells do have very small form factor, whereas the attocell has a very small range which is intelligently derived. The fact is that hardware miniaturisation is no longer a limiting characteristic. What enables new uses for the technology is cell intelligence, which is software not hardware.
In what situations would someone be able to use an attocell?
The connected laptop needs an internet connection, so a hotel room or an office would be good places to use an attocell. This is also where mobile reception tends to be least effective. The attocell is not really designed for use on the move.
Does the phone need to run a special app?
No, 3G phones recognise the attocell as a standard cell. They automatically switch to the attocell when placed on top, and switch back when removed.
Doesn’t this device just bypass roaming charges?
In most cases where the attocell would be used, like in a hotel room, people are already using a Skype-type or similar service rather than roaming. The attocell adds the convenience of using your own phone as though you were in your home country. It doesn’t incur roaming changes because the phone is not roaming, and does not connect to the visiting country’s networks. Instead it travels over the internet to the home country.
What is the power output of the attocell?
Running at a range of 5mm the attocell typically produces a signal of -70dBm or 0.0000001 milliwatts. That’s tiny – about one billionth of the output of a typical Wi-Fi access point.
What do operators think of the attocell?
We can’t say about operators in general, but the device was developed in response to suggestions from multiple mobile operators. Our job was to innovate and develop useful new technology in response to these requirements.
What is to stop other vendors from developing an attocell?
At Ubiquisys we are always very careful to protect our IPR before embarking on new projects. The attocell has been no exception.
How much will an attocell cost?
Mobile operators will decide pricing depending on a variety of market drivers. From a wholesale cost perspective, the attocell is no more expensive to produce than the lowest cost residential femtocell.
Which operators will provide attocells and when can I get one?
The attocell is a working product today, but like all cellular products it will undergo a standard commercialisation process with each mobile operator. We are currently discussing attocell introduction with several mobile operators.
If you have any questions about the attocell or anything raised in this post, please leave us a comment below.