Tiny tech spells end of cell towers and base stations

7 Feb 2011

Alcatel-Lucent has unveiled a pioneering new technology – shaped like a Rubix Cube – that will not only deliver universal broadband coverage but will do away with mobile masts and base stations.

The new technology called LightRadio effectively shrinks the carbon footprint of mobile networks by 50pc which means more bandwidth per individual user through the deployment of small antennas everywhere.

Alcatel-Lucent CEO Ben Verwaayen said the LightRadio technology will remove bottlenecks constraining today’s mobile network and will lead to universal broadband coverage.

LightRadio represents a new approach where the base station, typically located at the base of each cell site tower, is broken into its components elements and then distributed into both the antenna and throughout a cloud-like network.

LightRadio also shrinks today’s clutter of antennas serving 2G, 3G and LTE systems into a single, powerful, Bell Labs-pioneered antenna that can be mounted on poles, sides of buildings or anywhere else there is power and a broadband connection.

The innovation coincides with growing demand for third- and fourth-generation mobile networks and devices, involving the mass adoption of wireless television services and other forms of broadband content. The total addressable market for the radio technology necessary to serve such networks and devices is expected to exceed €100bn over the next seven years.

Verwaayen said the technology will solve the looming global gridlock in mobile networks. “Today’s and tomorrow’s demands for coverage and capacity require a breakthrough in mobile communications.”

The end of the base station as we know it

He added: “LightRadio will signal the end of the base station and the cell tower as we know it today.”

The new technology can reduce the cost of ownership of mobile networks by up to 50pc. Bell Labs estimates that TCO spent by mobile operators in mobile access in 2010 was €150bn.

Underlining the oncoming gridlock in mobile communications, Bell Labs predicted there will be more than 21.6bn downloads of mobile apps by 2013. By 2015, the world will experience 18 times more smartphone devices and 30pc more wireless data traffic. There will be 32 times greater smartphone usage per urban kilometre.

The LightRadio product family is comprised of the Wideband Active Array Antenna, the Multiband Remote Radio Head, the LightRadio Baseband Processing, the LightRadio Control, and end-to-end management using the 5620 Service Aware Manager (SAM). The product family depends on a number of breakthrough innovations and technologies from Alcatel-Lucent’s Bell Labs research arm and ecosystem of companies.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years