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Cellphones Wireless Networking

MagicJack Femtocell Gates Cell Traffic to VoIP 243

olsmeister writes "MagicJack is demonstrating a femtocell device at CES that will allow any GSM phone (locked or unlocked) to place free phone calls over the internet using VOIP. The device costs $40 and includes free service for 1 year. It supposedly will cover a 3,000 sq ft house."
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MagicJack Femtocell Gates Cell Traffic to VoIP

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  • Is this legal? (Score:5, Informative)

    by marcansoft ( 727665 ) <{moc.tfosnacram} {ta} {rotceh}> on Friday January 08, 2010 @02:00PM (#30697304) Homepage

    There's no "trick" to work with locked phones. GSM has no network-side authentication, so all you have to do is impersonate your carrier's network (this is trivial). But I can't imagine this being in line with regulations. Another issue is that encryption does not work unless you're a carrier and share a secret with the phone's SIM, which means that invariably your calls will be broadcast in the clear when you're using this device.

    I'm not entirely sure this is a good idea. Femtocells are great, but impersonating carriers gets you into all sorts of sticky issues.

  • by metamechanical ( 545566 ) on Friday January 08, 2010 @02:02PM (#30697336)
    Consumer reports said no such thing. In fact, they gave it a reasonably positive review [] (and yes, I realize that this is not consumer reports' website, but I read the print article when it arrived in my mailbox a week ago, and to my memory it is close if not a direct reprint). I am not endorsing the product, and I know little about it, to say that Consumer Reports said it is a scam is disingenuous.
  • by kevin_conaway ( 585204 ) on Friday January 08, 2010 @02:06PM (#30697396) Homepage
    Consumer Reports [] seems to think so (with some caveats). They covered it in this months issue.
  • by metamechanical ( 545566 ) on Friday January 08, 2010 @02:06PM (#30697400)
    Sorry to reply to myself, but I realized I was retarded and pasted the wrong link (and yet didn't realize that when I said it wasn't consumer reports' website... right... it's Friday, and I've checked out.). Here is the link [] I meant to post... right.
  • by oldspewey ( 1303305 ) on Friday January 08, 2010 @02:08PM (#30697428)

    I have one.

    The software/drivers are in no way reliable enough to make it a serious replacement for a "real" phone, but as a backup when you want to make free calls around North America, it's not a bad solution. The call quality is perfectly fine. It's worth the $20/year they charge, but not a whole lot more. If they could get their software (and their abominable, laughable, seizure-inducing support) to work a little more smoothly, I'd be more willing to consider additional products from the company.

  • by Kungpaoshizi ( 1660615 ) on Friday January 08, 2010 @02:09PM (#30697436)
    I've had MajicJack for more than 6 months now, it's the best thing I have ever found for phone service. Yes it sucks at times when I'm downloading etc, then the quality suffers a little, but otherwise 20$ a year, ya, I bet anyone and everyone screaming "SCAM!" is a freakin phone service salesman... Phone companies and cell companies can't come anywhere near 20$ a year, not even skype, and I have noticed the quality IS better than skype... MajicJack == the end of the line for residential phone companies
  • Requires PC (Score:4, Informative)

    by DivineHawk ( 570091 ) on Friday January 08, 2010 @02:09PM (#30697444) Homepage

    The current MagicJack is a device about the size of a matchbox with a USB connection and a phone jack. The USB connector plugs into the user's computer, loads software onto it, and uses the computer's power, processor and broadband connection. The femtocell will also use the PC, but it will let users make calls with their cell phones instead of wired phones.

    Why can't they make a standalone device!?

  • seems decent (Score:3, Informative)

    by pak9rabid ( 1011935 ) on Friday January 08, 2010 @02:13PM (#30697500)
    From the Comsumer Reports review:

    Some interference occurred when the tester tried talking while downloading a large file or playing an online game. If you can live with that, we think the Magic Jack is a great deal.

    Something that could easily be overcome with a router that has decent QoS capabilities. Overall, it seems like a decent deal.

  • by Kungpaoshizi ( 1660615 ) on Friday January 08, 2010 @02:14PM (#30697504)
    na, I was curious about it too, but it's gotta be the best phone type gear I've ever got.. I did have quality issues in the beginning, but after a call to customer service, after the results of their troubleshooting (and my tech skillz), THEY admitted to their server causing the issue, and said "we'll be updating the server soon". I didn't know what to think. A couple days later, the issue was fixed, and quality was 100%. I stand by this product, and those who say it's a scam, are either r-tarded, or are afraid for their phone company they work for...
  • Re:Is this legal? (Score:2, Informative)

    by lobsterturd ( 620980 ) on Friday January 08, 2010 @02:14PM (#30697518)

    Not to mention that UMTS phones will prefer the UMTS signal even if a GSM signal is available. Also, it will stop working once GSM goes away and is fully replaced by UMTS (which does authenticate the network), if that does ever happen.

  • Re:Requires PC (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 08, 2010 @02:19PM (#30697588)

    The magicjack software displays ads.

  • Why femto? (Score:4, Informative)

    by saw ( 5768 ) on Friday January 08, 2010 @02:23PM (#30697670)

    Why is this called a femto cell? The area covered is much more than 10^-15 of that of a standard cell tower. If this device covers a radius of 50 ft, and a tower works to a radius of about mile, then the fractional area covered is 10^-4, or somewhere between a microcell and a millicell.

  • by Kungpaoshizi ( 1660615 ) on Friday January 08, 2010 @02:23PM (#30697674)
    Seriously, it seems like you don't have it, otherwise if you do, and you still say this, you don't realize what you have. It works great, the "ad-laden software" you speak of is not that, it has a couple frames that load MJ deals, that's it. It doesn't swallow your bandwidth. It doesn't 'infect' your pc with adware like you make it sound. It has great tech support. And yes, unlimited service for 20$/year is totally possible, why, because of the crazy little idea people are talking about, called the "internet". And you don't have to leave your pc on 24/7. If the unit isn't plugged in, their servers host your voicemail, and you can access it remotely via a regular phone... Sounds like you either don't have it, or you had a rotten time with it, but I live, breathe, and eat computers, and this is by far the BEST phone service provider deal hands down. Sure, it's not a cell phone, but if you have a laptop/netbook, are you really gonna say that you can't pretty much go anywhere without being able to find the internet? Heck, paired with a random 3G adapter even... I don't mean to offend, but your words just reek of ignorance or impatience...
  • Re:Why femto? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Clueless Moron ( 548336 ) on Friday January 08, 2010 @02:37PM (#30697856)
    Put simply, because the names microcell and picocell were already taken.

    The names are not meant in the traditional mathematical sense; they just refer to coverage. A microcell will cover roughly a hotel, a picocell a typical office floor.

  • by ArhcAngel ( 247594 ) on Friday January 08, 2010 @02:39PM (#30697882)

    Is it really that much better and more convenient than WiFi? When I am in my house, I press the Internet calling icon on my phone and it connects to my VoIP provider's server via SIP.

    For starters it will work for ANY GSM phone. It doesn't matter if it has WiFi or not. Second, it's cheaper than your VOIP provider unless your VOIP provider can beat $1.70 mo.

    I have been using T-Mobile's @Home service for the past year ($10 month as a third line) and it's been extremely reliable. I didn't like Magic Jack because I needed a computer and their software on it to have phone service at home. If this thing works as advertised I just may pull the trigger.

  • by profplump ( 309017 ) <> on Friday January 08, 2010 @02:43PM (#30697958)

    $20/year really isn't possible, because no matter how low their internal operating costs, they have to terminate calls on the PSTN, and they don't have equipment in every city to do that on their own network. Legally mandated termination fees for rural areas can be $0.04/minute (or sometimes even higher) -- at that rate you'd only be able to talk for 500 minutes before they'd be in debt.

    My guess they're taking advantage of these same fees, and giving everyone inbound phone numbers in high-termination-fee locations. So they collect $0.04/minute every time someone calls you, but for most outbound calls they only pay the much lower termination fees for metropolitan areas. It's the same sort of scam we've seen from companies offering free teleconferencing, or free international calling. It's probably not illegal under current laws, but it's also not the sort of thing that's sustainable long-term, because real phone companies aren't going to put up with paying for MagicJack's phone service.

  • by nsayer ( 86181 ) <`nsayer' `at' `'> on Friday January 08, 2010 @02:45PM (#30697986) Homepage

    Not quite.

    The device is $150. IF you sign up for an unlimited minutes plan, they will give you a $100 mail-in rebate. The plan's pricing depends on which test market you are in, and whether or not you have AT&T DSL or U-Verse service. But in any event, an unlimited minutes plan is optional. You can just buy the box for $150 and use your plans minutes as normal. The purpose the box serves under those circumstances is merely improving your coverage.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 08, 2010 @02:46PM (#30698004)
    The link above points to an article about the regular wired MagicJack. Is there one for the GSM one?

    You mean the GSM one that MagicJack JUST UNVEILED PUBLICLY A FEW HOURS AGO? Whatever happened to critical thinking?!?
  • by hedronist ( 233240 ) * on Friday January 08, 2010 @02:48PM (#30698030)

    One of the weird things I've run into in doing 3rd-party tech support is that houses can, indeed, have Faraday cages.

    If the house is of the right vintage (mostly pre-1950's) it may have plaster walls. One method of hanging plaster is to put up a metal mesh lath [] which can make a very effective Faraday cage out of each of the rooms.

    A modern variation on the builtin Faraday cage is rigid foam insulation that is covered on one or both sides with a metal reflective coating, often used in external wall insulation.

    When a new customer calls and says they are having trouble getting wireless to work in their house, one of my first questions is does it have plaster walls.

  • by Jaysyn ( 203771 ) on Friday January 08, 2010 @02:50PM (#30698052) Homepage Journal

    Yeah it works. Call quality isn't as good as a landline, but I had a better time using MJ than Skype.

  • Re:Why femto? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Burpmaster ( 598437 ) on Friday January 08, 2010 @02:57PM (#30698142)

    Pretty sure femto refers to the radius in light years. At least, that's how I would defend it, if I had to.

    Yep, 50 feet = 1.611*10^-15 lightyears = 1.611 femtolightyears []!

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