I had initiated a discussion on one of the OOMA forums a few weeks ago, about Femtocell (also called a microcell) technology when one of the participants mentioned that Magic Jack announced getting into this space (so much for that being a leading-edge idea on my part). Actually they are not new (just new to me) the image at left came from a post over on imcellular about the hurdles these devices must overcome but it could be that we are seeing the beginnings of another game-changer in the works. Femtocell Background A Femtocell is a small cell phone base station that mimics the cell tower that your cell phone connects to but which routes the calls through your internet connection. The Femtocell is designed for use in a home or small business and generally supports anywhere from 2 to 4 active cell phone connections. To date, Femtocells have been available solely through the carriers as an adjunct to their cellular phone networks and generally used to improve cell phone services in areas where cell phone service has been marginal at best.The Magic Jack Connection Apparently the Magic Jack folks have prototyped a Femtojack solution that does all of the above, but is not tied to a particular cell phone carrier, in fact the base unit is powerful enough in its service area that any GSM phone immediately 'sees' the Femtojack and can route calls over the internet potentially a user could pick up any used GSM phone from EBAY and tie it into the Femtojack. Of course technology prototypes come and go so this may not go anywhere in the U.S. due to carrier lockout and Magic Jack not having any carrier agreements - technically Magic Jack may be able to 'spoof' a carrier id - maybe allow a subscriber to put in their cell phone provider id in some way but you can be pretty certain this would open them up to court battles with the big guys if they tried this. The Carriers (AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint etc) Apparently all of the carriers are rushing to bring out their own proprietary microcell devices that of course will only connect to their own network as they are seeing $$$ to buy the device (or additional subscription year lock-ins) plus additional $$$ to use the device in some cases. There probably is some free-market competition in there somewhere but probably not for a Magic jack. OOMA If Magic Jack does manage to make it to market with their Femtocell device then this would also be a great addition for OOMA as it would allow cell phones to work directly with the OOMA service and open up all kinds of possibilities. I think the current OOMA approach though of opening up its SIP protocol intially to iPhone users is a good long term strategy for them.
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