Sometimes even the best, most well built out networks struggle to keep up with their customers data needs. Between congested airwaves, and worse, poor signal quality, there are plenty of ways that your smartphone will start feeling like you are on an old PC using a dial up modem.
Recently at Qualcomm's What's Next in Mobile event in Santa Clara, California, the company introduced an idea that would help alleviate some of those issues that could possibly unleash a data capacity 1000 times greater than what we have available today. The basic premise is that all of the large cellular towers would work in conjunction with smaller cell base stations. These stations would be placed in your place of work or even your house.
While this is technically not a new idea considering similar cell boosters have been around for a while, they have been mostly used in rural areas and on a limited basis. Qualcomm envisions a new strategy for these devices however and has plans for them to be ubiquitous.
Of course there are some problems that will arise for people using this technology and some of them aren't so minor. If you think you have bad battery life while not on WiFi now, just wait until your device is continually switching between these smaller cell stations. That issue alone could turn many people off of the idea. Additionally, as it stands now these devices have to be connected to a wired broadband in order for them to work. That means you are using up all of your home network's bandwidth with a cell booster, almost makes you wonder why you aren't using WiFi in the first place. Lastly, these devices will cost money, and the questions will arise about who will be paying for these. Maybe some kind of carrier subsidy?
If you let a CTO talk long enough they'll give you a solution to all of your inquisitions though and Qualcomm's Matt Grob is no different. Grob will tell you that his company's UltraSON technology will help with the predictable hand off problems. During internal testing in San Diego they were able to reduce the amount of hand offs from 25 per minute to just two. That's obviously a start but still not where you would want it to be so as not to kill your battery.
Grob also describes the pricing as "about as much as a tattoo" and they will "have the potential to cost less than a phone". Now it's been long time since I got my ink but depending on the tattoo that could run you anywhere from $50 to $1,000 so that's a pretty vague reference. Also while this small cell will be roughly the same size as a "couple of decks of cards", they also have plans to ease the logistical issues by possible partnerships with ISP providers where the technology would be placed inside set top boxes.
By their estimation, Qualcomm would have to get these base stations in 20 percent of U.S. homes and businesses to hit that "1000 times better" prediction. They also look to be angling for the 3.5GHz spectrum in order to push out the system. Finally, there is no time frame as to when this new tech will hit the masses as of right now but odds are it is still years away from coming to fruition if we ever see it at all in it's current state.