ip.access has launched a consumer-friendly 3G cell, called Oyster, that's designed to be plugged into the internet. Oyster routes normal 3G calls over the customer's broadband connection; supplying all the advantages of a VoIP solution with none of the complexity.
Simplicity of deployment is paramount with applications like this, so users just connect an Ethernet wire to the back of the box, which then configures itself to suit the local radio conditions and connects to the normal cellular network (via a management server, also supplied by ip.access).
The customer's handset connects to the femtocell, and the user makes calls as normal. Up to four simultaneous calls can be routed through the Oyster, which also supports HSDPA data connections.
The idea is that a network operator will offer the Oyster to customers, perhaps locked to one family's handsets, to reduce the load on their network and improve coverage. The box costs less than £150, and the operator might decide to give it away or subsidise the price.
It also negates the need for handsets to be equipped with Wi-Fi, which has never been an ideal network for mobile voice applications. ®