Femtocells & Me

11:20 AM -- At a Ubiquisys Ltd. femtocell demo in London today, I got to set up the ZoneGate 3G femtocell in the house that the company rented for the day. Apparently, this makes me the very first "real consumer" to hook up a femtocell from the Google (Nasdaq: GOOG)-backed startup -- that is, someone who is not a Ubiquisys employee or a mobile operator exec. (See UbiquiSys Gets Google Boost.)

The cool thing about the little base station, is that all I had to do to get it started was plug it in. You plug in the power cord, then the Ethernet cable -- which was connected to an AOL DSL/WiFi modem -- and the base station starts looking for available frequency on your mobile operator's network. Ubiquisys would not reveal whose network they were using.

A SIM card in the femtocell handles all the authentication and security, so there doesn't seem to be any further set up required.

The demo worked. I made a call on a Nokia N73 and the voice quality was good.

"It costs a lot of money to build a box with no buttons on it," says Will Franks, CTO and founder of Ubiquisys. "You have to make it idiot-proof."

Sounds like this is the right box for me, then.

"We want to make sure that this is ready for mass market adoption, not geek adoption," adds Keith Day, Ubiquisys vice president of marketing.

Stay tuned for more fun with femtocells. As soon as Ubiquisys produces enough in its plant in South Wales, I hope to trial one in my own home soon.

— Michelle Donegan, Femto Geeky Editor, Unstrung

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