O2 is to trial picocell technology which, in theory, could see every Be customer doubling up as a VoIP access point from the comfort of their own home.
The concept is pretty simple: a tiny cell site is placed in the customer’s home, similar in size to a Wi-Fi access point, which allows nearby GSM handsets to connect and then routes their phone calls over the broadband connection. Some form of restitution for the customer would be provided, perhaps a cut of call cost or credit on their account, but the details are a long way from being settled.
The model has been proposed from time to time using Wi-Fi for the wireless connection, but enabling normal GSM handsets to use the connections will make a lot more sense and O2 reckon they can get the hardware costs down to below 70 quid.
Picocells are tiny GSM transceivers which are normally used to provide coverage in buildings such as shopping centres, and other blank spots in the network. They operate on very low power; to reduce interference with the main transmitter network.
What has send the Evening Standard into it’s tizzy is the old chestnut of the health implications: the fact that it isn’t possible to prove that mobile phones don’t give you cancer obviously means that they do, and while our bodies are awash with radio signals the thought of adding any more – and in our own homes - has brought out the traditional Campaigners Against Stuff with their warnings of dire trouble ahead.
Quite how O2 will guarantee quality of service, share the revenue or ensure seamless cell handover from VoIP to circuit-switched connections all remain to be resolved: which is what the trials are for.®