First trans-Atlantic call for lightRadio tech developed in Dublin

9 Jun 2011

A new technology spearheaded by an Irish R&D group that will help bring the internet to every person on the planet and shrink the carbon footprint of cellular base stations has made its first trans-Atlantic call.

The world’s first long-distance, high-quality mobile video call using lightRadio successfully took place from the historic desk of Alexander Graham Bell.

Spearheaded by an R&D group at Alcatel-Lucent in Dublin, the tiny new lightRadio technology will revolutionise base stations and mobile masts, effectively reducing their carbon footprint by 50pc, leading to more bandwidth per person and to universal broadband coverage.

Industry executives, technology leaders and analysts witnessed the inaugural lightRadio video call made from the headquarters of Bell Labs in New Jersey, the innovation engine of Alcatel-Lucent and now home to Graham Bell’s desk, from which he made the first-ever long-distance phone call.

Chris Lewis, group vice-president of industry analysts IDC, hosted the call from Bell Labs in Murray Hill, New Jersey, connecting with Ben Verwaayen, CEO of Alcatel-Lucent in Paris, and delegates at a business conference in Miami.

lightRadio is the name of a family of technologies which are set to transform mobile communications, improving the quality of network services for consumers while dramatically reducing the size, carbon footprint and energy consumption of mobile base stations.

After participating in the call, Verwaayen, said: “We have taken lightRadio from the drawing board to a fully working system, creating an entirely new system to connect customers around the world.”

The launch of lightRadio will help address exploding demand for mobile broadband services and increasing global consumption of wireless content. This has been fuelled by the adoption of smartphones and the popularity of video applications, social networking and mobile gaming services – all requiring wireless service providers to provide greater speed and capacity everywhere.

Network operators such as France Telecom/Orange, Telefonica and China Mobile are now engaged with Alcatel-Lucent in co-creating the market implementation of lightRadio.

Bell Labs estimates the total cost of ownership of mobile networks reached €150bn in 2010.

A triumph for Irish innovation

Speaking recently with, Bell Labs director Dr Frank Mullany, who leads the R&D group focused on lightRadio in Dublin, said the tiny new technology will remove the clutter of equipment that is usually seen on a base station tower.

“We are creating a technology that removes at least two or three of the different boxes you’ll see on a tower down to one single device that will in most cases be connected to fibre cable.”

Mullany said the technology being built in Dublin and which was unveiled at the recent Mobile World Congress is a radical development that puts Alcatel-Lucent years ahead of competitors.

“Not only is this more aesthetically pleasing but it increases the capacity of base stations to serve users with better bandwidth at the same time reducing power consumption.

“For mobile operators, they can have more control over beam shaping, which allows them to add or remove capacity in built-up or rural areas, depending on the time of day.”

The technological breakthrough puts Ireland at the coalface of what’s happening in communications around the world. The Dublin operation emerged from a major €69m investment in a new R&D headquarters in Blanchardstown, which included the establishment of a Centre for Telecommunications Value Chain-Driven Research (CTVR) at Trinity College Dublin.

This was followed up last year by a multimillion-euro investment that will create 70 new jobs in Dublin. The posts will all be technology R&D-focused and the research will centre on Bell Labs’ Open Innovation structure and will include a focus on Alcatel-Lucent’s ‘Green Touch’ strategy, an initiative aimed at improving communications networks’ energy efficiency.

Underlining the oncoming gridlock in mobile communications, Bell Labs predicts 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.

Photo: Bell Labs’ Dr Frank Mullany at Alcatel-Lucent’s R&D operation in west Dublin

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