Should wireless carriers use home Internet connections for backhaul?

Is it a good idea to boost cellular network capacity 1000X by deploying "small cells" in homes?

In a thought-provoking article on GigaOM, Prakash Sangam of Qualcomm writes that cellular network capacity could be boosted up to a thousand times if households deploy "small cells" (i.e., femtocell technology) to shunt cellular traffic to consumers' DSL and cable Internet connections. Although a boon to cellular capacity, what happens when your neighbor watches the football game on his Android tabled while barbecuing in his back yard? Not only could it degrade your household's Internet performance, your neighbor's use could increase your monthly broadband bill.

According to Sangram, a network of extremely low-cost, plug-and-play, open, indoor small cells could provide: ". . . extremely high indoor capacity as well as good outdoor coverage and capacity in the immediate "neighborhood." This model is cost effective because consumers deploy the small cells and provide the backhaul, saving operators time and money. Studies show capacity increases of up to 500x with a mere 9 percent penetration of households and up to 1,000x with 20 percent penetration, when combined with 10x more spectrum."

In this model, Sangram expects us to make small cells in our homes available to our families as well as our neighborhoods in order to save cellular operators time and money by using us for backhaul. A household Internet connection is not free. Not only do we pay for it, it may soon be subject to usage charges. Does he really think it is a good idea for us to provide back haul for the likes of Verizon, ATT, and Sprint, possibly sending our broadband consumption through the roof in the process? We think this is ill advised. What do you think?

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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