Interesting article in The New York Times a few days ago, about the growth of mini-cell base stations to provide better cellular service in your home or other dead spot, "Bringing You a Signal You're Already Paying For". This "femto/nano/microcell" acts as a relay point between your cell phone/smart phone and local Internet connection which you have already available.
The article focuses on the "who is paying for what here?" and "is this fair or right?" aspects of these units, but we'll avid those perspectives here. The good news is that unlike most of these article, which take a few data points and anecdotes and then project a longer-term trend, this article thankfully did not (we call this "anecdata"). It did, however, some interesting data on how many units were sold and who provides them.
From a design standpoint, these devices combine an interesting set of technologies: wireless cell-phone RF, wired/wireless Internet interconnect, power (of course), and firmware. They really epitomize the never-ending challenge of allocating design resources in a small form factor, as well as allocating bandwidth to meet user needs. If you are improving your cellphone service by using your Internet connection ti supplement it, then you are really turning your cellular bandwidth and SNR problem into more load on the Internet local connection. Fortunately, in most cases, the additional cellular loading is fairly small, but still, things do add up, as they say.
The devices also epitomize another engineering trait, namely, the ability of smart people (read that as "engineers" in this case) to come up with workarounds to problems, and to figure out ways to leverage resources on hand . ♦