Femtocell Fun

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 20-Jan-2011 20:14

Vodafone New Zealand today launched their Sure Signal femtocell solution. Essentially it's a mini cellsite around the same size as a router, that plugs into your broadband connection and delivers mobile coverage using the broadband connection as backhaul. Having played with the Alcatel Lucent and Huawei femtocells in the past I'm a definate fan of the technology, however many people aren't, believing that they're a cheap nasty fix for a problem that shouldn't exist.

What is cool about the technology is how it can be exploited in ways that mobile carriers do their hardest to prevent. Because a femtocell is the size of a router and can work anywhere with an internet connection there is nothing physically stopping you taking it with you to a foreign country, plugging it in, and enjoying zero rated roaming.. But this breaks many rules, including the fact you're illegally transmitting on spectrum in a country what you aren't legally allowed to use, which means carriers implement methods to prevent this.

The most common is IP whitelisting, where a mobile network restricts the devices to working with a fixed range of IP addresses, typically their own. Vodafone NZ appear to have adopted this method, restricting usage to customers using only a Vodafone broadband connection. Of course any network engineer out there will suddenly hear the word "VPN" jump into their head, and suddenly the opportunities are endless...

Please note that I neither condone or encourage breaking the law to exploit overpriced roaming charges! Smile

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Permalink to Femtocell Fun | Add a comment (6 comments) | Main Index

Comment by muppet, on 21-Jan-2011 09:58

I need to get my one of these to have a play. I wonder though, would they really mind? Do VFNZ make much money of roaming? I thought (but I have no actual clue) that it wasn't the home network but they one you're roaming on that reaps all the $ from roaming.

Comment by mckenndk, on 21-Jan-2011 12:27

From what I read on their website they might only be offering it to people that have vodafone broadband

What you need to use Sure SignalVodafone fixed line broadband with a speed of at least 1Mbps.A 3G mobile phone for each person using Sure Signal. Dion

Comment by RedJungle, on 21-Jan-2011 16:09

Looking forward to the enivitable jail break that will follow ;)

Comment by raytaylor, on 22-Jan-2011 23:33

Vodafone say you require a vodafone dsl broadband service of at least 1mbit in speed.

I am guessing this means they also limit it to their own broadband connections so you cant take it overseas. Like the vodafone at home boxes, they limit you to one cell tower.

Comment by johnr, on 23-Jan-2011 19:11

@Raytaylor The Vodafone at home box is not locked to a single cell

Comment by Deane Jessep, on 24-Jan-2011 11:31

Had the same idea last week. Only you can expect the local country you are in to have a Macro network covering most areas you want to provide your own coverage; this means that prevention could be at the other carriers end and I would imagine that it would be a trifling and simple task to notice or locate a rogue device on your spectrum. (with the way 3G devices yammer away to each other). If punishments for spectrum hijacking look anything like the radio world you would be up for any punishment from US$100,000+ through to jail time. Not to mention the potential for a lawsuit from the company claiming 'damages'. Of course if you go to a country that does not operate anything on Voda NZ's 2100 channel slots then...

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sbiddle's profile

Steve Biddle
New Zealand

I'm an engineer who loves building solutions to solve problems.

I also love sharing my views and analysis of the tech world on this blog, along with the odd story about aviation and the travel industry.

My interests and skillset include:

*VoIP (Voice over IP). I work with various brands of hardware and PBX's on a daily basis
  -Asterisk (incl PiaF, FreePBX, Elastix)

  -xDSL deployments

*Structured cabling
  -Home/office cabling
  -Phone & Data

*Computer networking
  -Mikrotik hardware
  -WAN/LAN solutions

*Wireless solutions
  -Motel/Hotel hotspot deployments
  -Outdoor wireless deployments, both small and large scale
  -Temporary wireless deployments
*CCTV solutions
  -Analogue and IP

I'm an #avgeek who loves to travel the world (preferably in seat 1A) and stay in nice hotels.

+My views do no represent my employer. I'm sure they'll be happy to give their own if you ask them.

You can contact me here or by email at stevenbiddle@gmail.com