Alcatel-Lucent lightRadio: The Future of Mobile Broadband?

Mobile data and voice demand continues to grow and with it has come increasing strain on mobile infrastructure. One solution could be to build more towers with traditional cellular antennas to pollute the skyline. Alcatel-Lucent has another idea, it's called lightRadio and it could revolutionize mobile infrastructure.

With lightRadio, Alcatel-Lucent is combining a software defined radio that can combine 2G, 3G and 4G traffic and bring a cloud computing construct to cell tower deployments.

"What lightRadio does, is it enables us to double the capacity of the network at half the cost per bit," Tom Gruba senior director of product marketing, lightRadio told InternetNews.com

Gruba explained that in first generation cellular sites there are amplifiers at the bottom of the tower that need more power as electrons are pushed up the tower to the antenna. He added that today's cellular towers require multiple antennas as they continue to add technologies and bandwidth.

The lightRadio approach is different in multiple ways. For one, it includes a software defined radio which can support 2G, 3G and 4G with the same antenna. The technology is also upgradable as new protocols and standards emerge. Gruba added that the lightRadio approach includes the amplifier with the actual antenna.

The lightRadio is then connected to what is known as a baseband unit to create a cloud-like approach for network connectivity and bandwidth.

"Now we're taking the baseband unit and putting it into a centralized location where you can pull 25 or 30 sites into one location that is connected by fibre," Gruba said. By pooling the basebands together, the goal is to reduce operational complexity as well as making more bandwidth available overall. Gruba noted that with a switch fabric in front of the baseband, a cellular operator can load balance the traffic across the connected cell sites.

According to Alcatel-Lucent, the lightRadio approach will be able to deliver 30 percent more capacity to a mobile operator. The additional capacity comes by way of the way that the antenna scans the air.

"We have vertical beam forming integrated into this unit so you're scanning both horizontally and vertically which gives you a 30 percent capacity improvement," Gruba said.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.


mobile, 4g, mobile broadband, mobile data