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.
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.
Doc Searls is Senior Editor of Linux Journal