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Telefónica today announced the first LTE network using Alcatel-Lucent’s lightRadio technology, at Mobile World Congress.

Telefonica’s new LTE trial network, based on lightRadio modules, covers the Fira trade fair ground and a five square kilometer area of central Barcelona.

Telefónica says it greatly improves mobile coverage by bringing small-cell base stations closer to the customer. The tiny radio provides download speeds of 100 Mbps, between 40-60Mbps on upload on the 2.6Ghz band, with vastly improved indoor coverage and capacity.

Telefónica deployed 11 lightRadio metrocells around the convention grounds, as well as at hotspots around Barcelona. Telefónica’s new 2.6Ghz network was demonstrated using Samsung LTE devices, including their GALAXY S II LTE smartphones and GALAXY 8.9 tablets. Samsung has been actively collaborating with Telefónica for LTE trial services with LTE dongles, MiFi devices and LTE smartphones.

Alcatel-Lucent’s lightRadio, introduced a year ago, is a Rubik’s Cube-sized device that contains radios and antennae and can be mounted on rooftops, phone poles and bus shelters. Multiple U.S. carriers are testing lightRadio and may begin deploying it this year, according to Marcus Weldon, chief technology officer at Paris-based Alcatel-Lucent. Alcatel-Lucent, along with Ericsson and Samsung, are the main vendors for Sprint’s Network Vision project.

Telefónica say their LightRadio network utilises the same frequency for several network layers, allowing for far more efficient use of spectrum. Telefonica says it would also reduce network deployment costs by as much as 40 per cent, with energy savings of up to 35 per cent and a reduction in environmental impact.

Telefónica says it’s a first step towards a real ‘HetNet’ network, where conventional radio base stations co-exist with 4G metro cells working on the same frequency and with no interference.

Last week Alcatel-Lucent unveiled a new addition to its small-cell base station portfolio that incorporates carrier-grade WiFi access. Called lightRadio WiFi, it is essentially an upgraded version of the small, cube-shaped lightRadio antenna launched by Alcatel-Lucent in February 2011. The lightRadio WiFi device adds WiFi connectivity, as well as offering 2G, 3G and LTE access.

Alcatel-Lucent says lightRadio WiFi enables mobile operators to off load cells by seamlessly switching data traffic on to WiFi but without offloading customers from their backhaul or core networks (keeping them paying customers). lightRadio WiFi is available now for trials and demonstrations, with metro and enterprise cells available in late 2012 to early 2013.

Telefónica is one of the largest telecommunications companies in the world with a significant presence in 25 countries. Last July, Telefónica, Vodafone España S.A. and Orange Spain won 800 MHz and 2.6 GHz spectrum for LTE services in Spain. Telefónica is the first to offer LTE service in Spain.

Alcatel-Lucent and Etisalat will offer broadband services developed around lightRadio. Etisalat is one of the largest telecommunications companies in the Middle East, operating in 18 countries and serving over 140 million customers.

Etihad Etisalat (Mobily) was the first operator in the world to launch commercial service using the Time Division version of LTE. Mobily, which is majority owned by telecoms giant Etisalat, will use some 2,400 LTE towers in more than 30 cities across Saudi Arabia. Mobily announced TD-LTE network deals with Huawei and Samsung in February, worth “hundreds of millions”, according to the carrier.

TD-LTE coverage will exceed 32 cities and towns, representing 85 percent of the populated areas in Saudi Arabia, with a population that totals 24,735,000. Mobily is using TD-LTE because frequency pairs (FDD-LTE) in the 2.6GHz bands were not available. But Bayanat, their WiMAX subsidiary, had spectrum available in the 2.5GHz band, so Mobily is using that for their TD-LTE service.

Sprint’s Network Vision architecture will be supplied by Ericsson, Alcatel-Lucent, and Samsung, which will replace their CDMA and iDEN gear with new frequency-and radio-agnostic equipment. It will likely feature both WiMAX and LTE-Advanced on their 2.6 GHz spectrum. Sequans is working with Ericsson, Nokia Siemens Networks, Huawei, Alcatel-Lucent and ZTE on LTE interoperability.

Meanwhile, ZTE Corporation today launched a next-generation TD-LTE multi-mode Pico base station at Mobile World Congress.

Their new Pico base station can be deployed in hot spots, blind spots, cell-edge spots or indoors and is compatible with Micro, Macro and Femto base stations. The multi-mode Pico is based on ZTE’s Software Defined Radio (SDR) platform and supports LTE and WiFi simultaneously. It can also work in CPE mode and use TD-LTE as wireless backhaul while simultaneously working as a WiFi access point.

“The ZTE next-generation Pico is a unique base station that can be applied in various scenarios” said ZTE Vice President and General Manager of the TDD product line Scott Wang. “It reduces costs and provides wider coverage and higher throughput than other Pico products.”

They also announced a new LTE-A commercial base station that introduces inter-band carrier aggregation and MIMO. The base station’s inter-band carrier aggregation can combine two bands; 2.6GHz and 1.8GHz. The LTE Advanced technologies can double peak rate, with downloads up to 270Mbps, said ZTE.

Related Dailywireless articles include; LightRadio: Early 2012 Launch, LightRadio: Mini Modular Cell Infrastructure, Personal 4G Basestation Chips, Alcatel-Lucent: TD-LTE Trial in Shanghai, Saudi Arabia: First to Get TD-LTE?, Clearwire Chooses LTE Advanced , Will Sprint Go TD-LTE?, WiMAX to TD-LTE: Everybody’s Doin’ It, Speculation on Sprint Infrastructure, LG Telecom: CDMA & LTE Handover, LTE Spectrum: It’s War, German 4G Auction: It’s Done, Auctions Winding Down in Germany & India,

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