LightRadio: Mini Modular Cell Infrastructure

Alcatel-Lucent says it has developed a breakthrough product called lightRadio. About the size of a Rubik’s Cube, the modular device combines elements of a Femtocell and basestation and is expected to enable more cellular capacity at lower cost. The new architecture breaks the cellular infrastructure into its component elements and distributes them through the network.

LightRadio is a small cube which combines an active array antenna with a software defined radio. The active antenna can be as small as 2 watts or combined into an array of typical cellular capacity (30-60 watts). With this new antenna, base stations and large antenna towers, virtually disappear, says Lucent. It can be deployed in big and small antenna configurations, all-around a city.

LightRadio, it is claimed, will cut the cost of site rental by 66% and reduce power by 51%. Alcatel-Lucent says it is first in the industry to announce products in this space, in partnerships with Freescale and HP.

According to ArsTechnica, LightRadio collapses three radios into one. The radios are tiny cubes of 2.5 inches square, and each can operate between 1.8GHz and 2.6GHz. They use tiny amps, built into the antenna enclosure.

These radio cubes are stacked in groups of 8 to 10 in order to make an antenna element, and when one cube in the array goes down, the others remain unaffected. The antennas also do “beam forming” in both the horizontal and vertical dimension to better connect with local wireless devices.

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. The wideband active array antenna will be trialed later this year with broad product availability expected in 2012. Additional product family members will be available over 2012, 2013 and 2014, Alcatel Lucent said.

Tiny, single antenna elements are combined with small software defined radios in each cube. Combining radio cubes, results in multiple (MIMO) antennas, with more power and beam forming options. Network control is managed by a fiber connected cloud architecture, perhaps in a manner similar to remote satellite control where direct satellite LNB outputs in the range of 950 to 2200 MHz are converted to an optical signal for transmission to a fiber optic receiver miles away.

Not to be outdone, Ericsson announced its AIR (antenna integrated radio) solution today. The design compactly integrates the antenna into the radio unit, cutting energy consumption and installation time. While Alcatel Lucent is a vocal proponent of the femtocell play, Ericsson has steered clear of this segment. Its response is a new architecture called the “heterogeneous network”, or Hetnet, and the AIR product is the “first step” on the road to its introduction.

Posted by Sam Churchill on .

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