Qualcomm has long been an innovator in wireless/cellular communications technology. Now, the company has proposed an idea for extending the cellular communications infrastructure inside the home. Earlier this year, Qualcomm Chief Technology Officer Matt Grob unveiled a cellular base station small enough to fit within the set-top box in an average home.

In fact, Qualcomm is experimenting with a number of these prototype miniature cellular base stations in and around its San Diego, CA office headquarters, with the intent of replacing more traditional cell-phone towers. Cellular subscribers traveling through the area are unaware of the lack of cell-phone towers, since their smartphones hop quickly among the many small base stations and they are provided with excellent service. But this is just a start, notes Grob: “Our next step is to do a larger test, with a network operator and an infrastructure vendor.”

Engineers at Qualcomm have estimated that providing cellular network coverage through such an “in-home” fashion will be less expensive than erecting additional conventional cellular towers, provided that home wireless services users do not see a loss in performance (such as in Internet access speed). Although some current service providers offer small cellular base stations for personal use, Grob says that any expansion of the cellular infrastructure in this way should be done with the clear knowledge of the consumers—if they purchase a small home cellular station that will be part of the public infrastructure, that capability should be made clear before the purchase of the equipment.