Qualcomm is introducing a new chip that will make it easier for wireless subscribers to get access to speedy 4G LTE wireless data service in their homes.
On Wednesday, the company introduced the new FSM90xx SoC (system-on-a-chip), a low-cost chip that's inexpensive enough for device makers to include in Wi-Fi routers. By placing the 4G LTE technology in inexpensive consumer gateways, wireless operators can create mini 4G LTE cells in people's homes. This will improve access to the fast wireless service that's the next generation of technology used by wireless operators and provides the quickest Internet access over a wireless operator's cellular network.
The product Qualcomm is introducing is part of the company's overall "small cell" push. Small cell technology lets wireless operators using licensed wireless spectrum reuse that spectrum over and over by reducing the coverage area of the cell site. Qualcomm's new chip is an important breakthrough in this technology, because it has reduced the 4G LTE cell site so much that it can be used for indoor and neighborhood coverage. As a result, it helps wireless operators use their spectrum more efficiently, while also improving coverage of 4G LTE service indoors.
Wireless carriers already offered so-called femto cells to improve 3G coverage inside homes and buildings. This mostly helped improve voice coverage for consumers who could get only a weak signal from their carriers. The FSM90xx will now offer this benefit for 4G LTE data service, and it will do it in a way that's more cost-effective than previous generations of femto cells, said Puneet Sethi, staff product manager for Qualcomm Atheros.
"This product is designed to help wireless operators fill coverage holes," he said. "One of the big differences is that it delivers this functionality in a form factor and with performance characteristics that are suitable for inclusion in a residential gateway."
Sethi said this means the 4G LTE small cell technology can be embedded in products that are also offering Wi-Fi access. This is important since small businesses and residential customers also want to use Wi-Fi in order to access the Internet on certain devices. Designing the product to allow for 4G LTE technology to work alongside Wi-Fi was no small task, due to potential interference issues, he added. But Qualcomm has designed the product to work in this way.