A new chip is aiming to make the 4G LTE service in your home better. The new FSM90xx SoC from Qualcomm can be included in Wi-Fi routers and will act as a "small cell" extending the cellular network. The primary use is intended to be increasing indoor and neighborhood coverage primarily, while also providing faster and more reliable service.
This is not Qualcomm's first attempt at increasing coverage using the cells. There already exists "Femto cells" that extend 3G coverage, which are in use by people seeking to improve the quality of their carrier's voice service. The new chip follows the same idea of improving overall coverage and quality of service – but the focus is on data. As someone who has conflicting signals where I live (of both 3G and LTE), having a way to boost the weaker LTE coverage in my home is a very compelling piece of technology. It seems, from the explanation, that the cells may be able to form a type of mesh network ultimately that will work to fill holes (dead zones), especially in neighborhoods where this technology finds its way into many of the homes.
There are potential problems with embedding this technology in routers, however. Puneet Sethi, staff product manager for Qualcomm says that there are potential interference issues. But it is a worthwhile endeavor that they are likely to be rewarded for if they succeed. Many people don't buy any of the existing cellular service-enhancing products, not because they don't need them, but because when they are at home or at work it is likely easier to rely on traditional phone lines and internet service. But including the chip in the routers that people are buying anyway is an ingenious way to drive adoption, and if given the choice between a router that increases cellular coverage in your home and one that does not – we can guess which consumers will find more value in.
Well-covered and sparsely covered areas both stand to benefit from this kind of technology, and it is great to see Qualcomm innovating in this regard. I'm very curious to see if this technology makes it into more than just routers. Imagine this technology getting it into other devices (like phones, televisions, etc.) – helping to propagate the signal. So far this is just a pipe dream of mine, but when envisioning the coming "Internet of things" it seems like the potential of these chips is limitless. Would you buy a router with this technology? What do you think of Qualcomm's work in this area? Let us know in the comments below.