The Picocell box works like any other FMC solution, when users are in range the call will be switched from the mobile network and converted to voice over IP (VoIP) calls before being routed via the broadband connection, but because it has a GSM transmitter it allows standard handsets to make VoIP calls.
The Picocell box will combine the functions of a domestic DSL router and a GSM base station, which O2 said could cost less than £70 when it ships early next year. The technology is still in development, and O2 is looking for customers to take part in trials.
Picocells are tiny GSM transceivers which are normally used to provide coverage in buildings such as shopping centres, and other blank spots in the network. They operate on very low power to reduce interference with the main transmitter network, but this hasn’t stopped some scaremongers causing a ruckus over health issues.
Karen Barrett of the campaign group Mast Sanity said: "People should not buy these picocells. Even if on their own they do not pose a problem, having one in every living room and office means all the radiation adds up. People already have wi-fi connections in their homes – this is just making the problems worse."
However, O2 said "There is no scientific evidence linking mobile phones with health problems and we will continue to fund independent research into this area."
The Health Protection Agency said exposures in proximity to picocells have been found to be well within safe levels for the public, but advised caution on the question of all mobile phone masts.
"Users feel comfortable using their existing 2G phones, so using those with a PBX extension could be the sweet, simple solution right under our noses without any of the complexity of having a WLAN, and at a relatively lower cost,” said Richard Webb, directing analyst for wireless at Infonetics Research.