Wanted: a Mobile Home Cell

Ever wanted to improve AT&T wireless service? Yah, me too. Many times. Well, seems you can — with a "personal 3G mini cellular tower" from Cisco. As Jamie Neary of Cisco blogs it,

Are you having issues with AT&T 3G coverage at your house? If you are then you’ll be very interested in this new offering from AT&T and Cisco. It is called a 3G microcell. The 3G MicroCell acts like a personal mini cellular tower (for voice and data) in your home or small business. It is a Cisco device that plugs into AT&T’s cell network and into your broadband service provider to provide a small 10 device 3G MicroCell at your house. And it supports up to 4 simultaneous users. How cool is that!

In a nutshell, the Cisco device (it is actually a Scientific Atlanta box) sets up a mini 3G cell of around 5000 sqft. Then it wraps up your cell call in IP and transmits it through your broadband Internet provider back to an AT&T POP.

It lets you move seamlessly from home cell to neighborhood cell. It doesn't screw with your unlimited data plan, if you have one. (Which I do.) And it works with any AT&T phone, including the iPhone. (Which is a clever thing, but not the world's best phone. I know, because I have one.)

Think of it as a VoIP bridge inside your end of AT&T's mobile network.

Here's a link to the 3G Microcell site at AT&T, but it's down now. Call back later. Meanwhile, here's the Google shortcut to other coverage on the thing. For starters, the Engadget report.

It's not here yet, of course. No price. Engadget mentions a "service plan," which is a depressing prospect.

Meanwhile, I'm thinking I want a portable one. I mean, wouldn't that make more sense? There's a lot of broadband laying around. Not just at your house, but at your friends' houses, at hotels, businesses, schools...

So then we get to my next point. If we can imagine extending the cell network over IP, why isn't the cell network itself an all-IP thing to which anybody should be able to attach any data device? Why, other than the obvious business, sunk costs and regulatory reasons, aren't we building something really new and creative here?

At some point a bit will flip and everybody will slap their foreheads in complete realization that it makes more sense to run voice on a data network than vice versa. And for that data network to be as open as possible.

Betcha AT&T would make more money if it was.

Hat tip for the lead to John Halamka.

______________________

Doc Searls is Senior Editor of Linux Journal

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atnt will be good waiting

medical alert products's picture

atnt will be good waiting for it.

"At some point a bit will

Anonymous's picture

"At some point a bit will flip and everybody will slap their foreheads in complete realization that it makes more sense to run voice on a data network than vice versa. And for that data network to be as open as possible"

The bit's already flipped, check out www.kestrelsp.com/OpenBTS/ and openbts.blogspot.com.

I wonder what kind of

Anonymous's picture

I wonder what kind of billing capabilities this has? Our whole neighborhood is in a cell phone 'dead zone' and I could see making a pretty penny letting the neighbors sponge off my own personal cell tower (like they're already doing with my WiFi) in return for a share of that ten-cents-per-message SMS extortion racket.

This Bugs Me

FredR's picture

As a Linux and Cisco guy, this really bugs me. Cisco was subjected to the "AT&T treatment" just like Apple was when it came to the iphone. Somehow third parties are tricked into thinking AT&T's network is something special. If you want on, you need to have a special client, and play by their rules.

In my mind, if a network isn't open, it doesn't deserve the label of network. In other words, they know that access to their network is a scarcity, they made it that way, it's sort of a physical manifestation of branding. I refuse to reference any cell carriers' services as networks.

This may be what Cisco is mulling over right now. Anyone who is familiar with their products knows they always give you two ways to do things, a Cisco proprietary way and an open standards way. This product only has one option. Cisco has more common sense than that ... they may actually be weighing the pros and cons and profitability of this move.

If the only people who will want this product are geeks like us, and we demand more, just how many will AT&T (and Cisco) really sell?

-- FLR or flrichar is a superfan of Linux Journal, and goofs around in the LJ IRC Channel

Great line

Doc Searls's picture

"...if a network isn't open, it doesn't deserve the label of network". Whoa. Great line. I want to quote that in "They Said It", an UpFront section in the Linux Journal print edition. (We're wrapping May right now.) If you want me to quote you by full name, write to me. doc AT (name of this magazine dot com). Thanks!

Doc Searls is Senior Editor of Linux Journal

I would be honored if you

FredR's picture

I would be honored if you quoted it. I dropped you a quick email. In fact, in Cisco terms a network isn't a network, it's an "internetwork" as in a bunch of things interconnected. If it's not open, how can you expect things to interconnect?

I would like to think my brain was formatted with the right filesystem from the beginning. (But I could be wrong).

-- FLR or flrichar is a superfan of Linux Journal, and goofs around in the LJ IRC Channel

it would be nice if i could

Anonymous's picture

it would be nice if i could bring one of these to europe, asia, wherever and make cell calls on my providers network at my normal rate, but obviously that will never happen.

Look at T-Mobile HotSpots

Anonymous's picture

If you get a UMA capable phone from T-Mobile you can use any available WI-FI for voice and data without any other additional equipment. With no additional charges from T-Mobile (You can pay $10 a month so that Wi-Fi calls don’t come out of your minuet bucket, but this is optional).

T-Mobile

Doc Searls's picture

That's nice, but I just stopped paying T-Mobile $30/month to use their wi-fi "network" (a term I put in quotes after reading FredR's remarks, above). That's because I got tired of getting hit with high "roaming" charges for using T-Mobile's own damn "network" when outside the U.S.

AT&T is no bargain, but they've ticked me off less than T-Mobile. So far.

Doc Searls is Senior Editor of Linux Journal

Why we're not building something really new and creative

Jim Peterson's picture

[quote]
Why, other than the obvious business, sunk costs and regulatory reasons, aren't we building something really new and creative here?
[/quote]

That about sums it up. It's the same as the carriers' (plural) unwillingness to provide basic broadband service to those of us in rural America. Too much investment for not enough return. I hate dial-up, and satellite is too expensive and unreliable. But, I stick with dial-up because it is our only link to the Internet here in the sticks.

Doing something like providing actual services for their customers is not what ISPs, telcos, cable companies and their ilk like to do. Gotta take care of those shareholders (me included through 401(k)) while satisfying the bean counters. They won't do it if it makes sense and costs a lot, but they will do it if it barely makes sense and costs very little. Who cares about the customers' needs?

OpenBTS

Russ Nelson's picture

Hey, Doc, look at this: http://openbts.sourceforge.net and the blog: http://openbts.blogspot.com/

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