In mid-July I traveled to the UK, visiting my employer’s head office in Cambridge. Being away from my home office is in some ways a drag. I’m so accustomed to being in control of my local network, which is certainly not the case when I’m abroad. Suffice it to say that I can’t use anything VoIP related from within the office LAN at HQ, with the possible exception of Skype.
At the hotel where we typically stay near HQ there is wired internet access provided by Swisscom. It’s a decent service, reasonably fast and reliable. However, at 15 Pounds Sterling (around $22 USD!) per 24-hour period it’s also very dear. To get around some of this cost one of my co-workers loaned me a company issued Vodaphone 3G USB dongle. This was the first time that I’d used one of these little gadgets.
Femtocells have been a topic of considerable discussion over the past year or so. Femtocells are small devices that act like a tiny cellular base in your home or office. To your cell phone it’s just another tower. However, instead of interfacing to the carriers back-end network it backhauls the calls over your local broadband connection. Some have noted that this is ideal for the carrier since they don’t actually incur the cost of that backhaul segment. As the person paying for the broadband connection, you do.
Vodaphone appears to be the first cellular carrier in the UK to actually introduce the little beasties. Andrew Grill’s “London Calling” blog has an excellent description of them based on his early first-hand experience. His tale includes both acquiring and installing the device. That he is able to extend cellular coverage into the basement flat (apartment) of a Victorian era home seems especially useful.