Alcatel-Lucent maps the future of mobile technology

lightRadio™ promises greener, simpler, lighter networks: multi-billion euro savings in infrastructure & power costs, addressing major elements of global “digital divide”.

February 7, 2011

Alcatel-Lucent today announced lightRadio™, a breakthrough in mobile and broadband infrastructure that streamlines and radically simplifies mobile networks. The solution was unveiled at a major press launch event in London supported by partners Freescale and HP.

Pioneered by Bell Labs, Alcatel-Lucent’s unique research and development arm, the new lightRadio system will dramatically reduce technical complexity and contain power consumption and other operating costs in the face of sharp traffic growth. This is accomplished by taking today’s base stations and massive cell site towers, typically the most expensive, power hungry, and difficult to maintain elements in the network, and radically shrinking and simplifying them.

lightRadio represents a new architecture 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. Additionally today’s clutter of antennas serving 2G, 3G, and LTE systems are combined and shrunk into a single powerful, Bell Labs-pioneered multi frequency, multi standard Wideband Active Array Antenna that can be mounted on poles, sides of buildings or anywhere else there is power and a broadband connection.

Alcatel-Lucent’s new lightRadio product family, of which initial elements ready to begin customer trials in the second half 2011, provides the following benefits:

Improves the environment: lightRadio reduces energy consumption of mobile networks by up to 50% over current radio access network equipment. (As a point of reference, Bell Labs research estimates that basestations globally emit roughly 18,000,000 metric tons of CO2 per year). Also, lightRadio provides an alternative to today’s jungle of large overcrowded cell site towers by enabling small antennas anywhere.

Addresses digital divide: By reducing the cell site to just the antenna and leveraging future advances in microwave backhaul and compression techniques, this technology will eventually enable the easy creation of broadband coverage virtually anywhere there is power (electricity, sun, wind) by using microwave to connect back to the network.

Offers major savings for operators: Thanks to lightRadio’s impact on site, energy, operations and maintenance costs; when combined with small cells and LTE, this new solution can lead to a reduction of total cost of ownership (TCO) of mobile networks up to 50% (as a point of reference, Bell Labs estimates that TCO spent by mobile operators in mobile access in 2010 was 150 billion Euros).

Ben Verwaayen, CEO of Alcatel-Lucent, said: “lightRadio is a smart solution to a tough set of problems: high energy costs, the explosion of video on mobile, and connecting the unconnected.”

Alain Maloberti, Senior Vice President, Network Architecture and Design, France Telecom/Orange said: “Alcatel-Lucent’s new vision and strategy of mobile broadband is quite exciting: the new wireless network architecture and innovative radio proposal will potentially help us to achieve significant operating cost savings and be better prepared for future challenges. We look forward to work closely with Alcatel-Lucent to explore and test this new approach.”

Tom Sawanobori, VP Technology Planning, Verizon Wireless, said: “Verizon looks forward to learning more about the benefits of lightRadio technology and how they could be applied as we continue to expand and evolve our LTE network.”

Alcatel-Lucent is also in advanced planning with China Mobile as well as a number of other carriers around the globe around co-creation and field trials of the lightRadio solution.

Alcatel-Lucent studies have concluded that the total addressable opportunity for the multi-technology radio market1, which lightRadio addresses, will be over 12 billion Euros in 2014, representing more than 55% of the total wireless RAN market. The cumulative total addressable market will be over 100 billion Euros from 2011-2018.

Alcatel-Lucent’s lightRadio portfolio integrates a number of breakthrough innovations and technologies from Alcatel-Lucent’s Bell Labs research arm and ecosystem of companies:

Market Impact

A new generation of active antennas allows vertical beam-forming that improves capacity in urban and suburban sites by about 30%, supports all technologies (2G, 3G, and LTE) and covers multiple frequency bands with a single unit.

By moving former basestation components to a System on a Chip (SOC), lightRadio places processing where it fits best in the network – whether at the antenna or in the cloud.

The economics of radio networks are substantially improved by reducing the number and cost of fiber pairs required to support the traffic between the antenna and the centralized processing in the cloud.

Matching of load to demand through ‘elastic’ controller capacity, delivered on sets of distributed and shared hardware platforms, will improve cost, availability, and performance of wireless networks.

Technology Innovation lightRadio cube

A unique Bell Labs antenna technology, the lightRadio Cube includes an innovative diplexer type, radio, amplifier, and passive cooling in a small cube that fits in the palm of the hand.

System-on-a-chip (SoC) jointly developed with Freescale Semiconductor

Integrates intelligent software from Alcatel-Lucent onto fully remotely programmable state-of-the-art hardware.

Unique compression algorithms

Provide nearly a factor of three compression of IQ sample signals.

Virtualized processing platforms

Alcatel-Lucent will use innovative virtualization software and will collaborate with partners like HP to enable a cloud-like wireless architecture for controllers and gateways.

The lightRadio Product Family

The new Alcatel-Lucent lightRadio product family is composed of the following components: Wideband Active Array Antenna, Multiband Remote Radio Head, Baseband Unit, Controller, and the 5620 SAM common management solution. The Wideband Active Array Antenna will be trialed later this year and have broad product availability in 2012. Additional product family members will be available over 2012, 2013 and 2014.