While this technology sounds nice, until service providers actually increase the number or capacity of towers, this just seems like a potential burden. Of course when they do increase the number of towers, their rates will go up.
Is this "new" just for data or just for the TDMA/GSM users out there? Voice CDMA is BUILT around redundant signals on multiple towers. I helped build the CDMA network in 3 of the 10 largest U.S. CDMA metro markets between 1996 and 2000... Find the CDMA spec (wikipedia even?) and look up "multipath." It's one of the biggest advantages of CDMA over TDMA/GSM for voice calls.
How does this affect battery life? Wouldn't using two simultaneous 4G radios drain your battery twice as fast? Also, using it as a repeater would just eat batteries for no benefit to the person whose phone is being converted into a mini repeater tower.
Funny that CDMA has been doing this since the 90s... but GSM is an older standard. DO-Advanced from Qualcomm also does EVDO (3G) data load sharing between towers-- ALL CDMA phone connect to multiple towers simultaneously already-- and always have.
This concept is not as bad as it sounds from a tower utilization perspective. The WCDMA standard is wasteful in spectrum terms, so this will actually help make up for it. Since it will be splitting the load, it would be easy to use this to throttle a phone to a neighboring tower that may not be as busy, while not diminishing overly much the quality of service. However, in situations where towers are ALL full, the effect will be minimal. Ala, San Francisco / New York.
This is all just a band-aid any way. GSM carriers in north america have completely missed the first LTE boat, which is the future of wireless. That said, it is also royally screwed in north america as the spectrum is so heavily divided, and there isnt even a standardization of the exact technology being used.
Thus, LTE will be more fragmented than any other wireless standard in the US, and as such will likely end up with Verizon owning the market by attrition from others having not jumped in early.
That doesnt benefit us as consumers however.
Frankly, as much as I am opposed to this, cellular networks need to be controlled by a single body at the spectrum level, and let the carriers do what they need to in order to provide service and still be competitive. With even 4 big carriers all trying to use a very limited amount of spectrum, serving large metropolitan areas well is hard, especially with WCDMA.