One of the more perplexing challenges for "anytime/anywhere" wireless access is providing seamless service as someone moves from outside, where cell phone services is just fine, to inside, where it is not.
At least it is not if "inside" means inside your home.
A dual-mode phone was once the obvious answer with a cell phone radio assumed.
Until very recently, Wi-Fi seemed to be the other radio in the tandem. It is, after all, already in the work environment and in public places, where it is becoming ubiquitous.
But what about the option of having a cell site right inside your home? A few months ago, PicoChip ran the "femtocell" option up the flagpole. Guess what? Some of the cell phone carriers salutedmore or less.
The value proposition is thatassuming the femtocell could be sold retail for about $100the consumer would be willing to pick up the cost of what is normally called infrastructure.
Carriers wouldn't have to change their billing or any other process. The Wi-Fi/VoIP competition would be dealt a serious blow. And the consumer who doesn't have a Wi-Fi access point in their home (probably the majority for quite some time) might also be happy.
Cell phone manufacturers would be pleased because they wouldn't have to build another radio into their phones. Or, because if they are going to have a multi-mode phone they'd like to keep the number low and opt for a mobile TV or maybe a WiMAX radio,
The sticky point, of course, is the retail price of the femtocell. PicoChip claims it can get the price down to about $100 with its interesting silicon technology that employs true MIMD parallel process with hundreds of DSP cores.
Not everybody agrees. But it will be interesting to see if the femtocell idea has a half life of more than a femtosecond.