Ericsson has introduced an access point to allow users to improve the quality of cell phone calls made in their homes.

Ericsson is hoping to sell the device to operators that could then offer customers special mobile calling rates in their homes. The access point supports GSM, WCDMA (Wideband Code Division Multiple Access), Wi-Fi and DSL.

End users would connect the access point to a broadband line and then make and receive calls with their standard GSM and WCDMA handsets in their homes. The access point would deliver better signal strength and call quality within users' homes than the standard wide area cellular network. Calls will automatically transfer between the home base station and the wider area network as users move in and out of the home.

Some operators already offer home zone calling plans but they usually must offer the discounted rate within the wider range of a standard base station. Vodafone, for example, offers its At Home plan in several markets including Germany, Italy, the UK, Greece, Hungary and Portugal. A user's home zone for the service is an area within an approximately two kilometre radius.

Ericsson's access point could help operators like Vodafone that primarily have wireless networks to better compete against fixed-line operators for voice services in the home. Mobile operators have tried to encourage users to replace their home phone lines with their mobile phones but network coverage within the home is an issue for some customers.

Ericsson said the access point will be available through selected operators starting in the middle of this year.