Today, Alcatel-Lucent unveiled lightRadio, a new initiative in wireless infrastructure. At a press launch in London supported by partners Freescale Semiconductor and HP, Alcatel-Lucent said this is accomplished by taking today’s base stations and massive cell-site towers and radically shrinking and simplifying them.
A typical cell site has a tower bristling with antennas and amplifiers, and nearby there is a large box containing processors. lightRadio represents a new architecture where the base station is broken into its component elements and then distributed into both the antennas and throughout a cloud-like network. The new architecture was pioneered by Bell Labs, Alcatel-Lucent’s research-and-development arm.
"First, we have miniaturization of all these elements and then further integration of all these elements," says Jean-Pierre Lartigue, VP/marketing at Alcatel-Lucent’s wireless division.
The company created a combined antenna and amplifier in the shape of a cube small enough to fit into the palm of a hand. The lightRadio cube combines the clutter of antennas serving 2G, 3G, and LTE systems and shrinks it into a single multi-frequency, multi-standard Wideband Active Array Antenna that can be mounted on poles, on the sides of buildings or anywhere else there is power and a broadband connection.
Working with Freescale, Alcatel-Lucent also shrunk the base-station processor to the size of a small chip. Lartigue says the miniaturized processors use Self Organizing Network (SON) technology where "antennas talk together to optimize the best wireless interface."
For more on SON, see "Docitive Networks – The Next Femto Evolution."
Such small components are much more flexible in terms of where they can be placed. By moving former base-station 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. HP is working with Alcatel-Lucent on cloud and virtualization technologies.
According to Lartigue, "What we provide is integration between what providers are doing in wireline and wireless. You can be very selective where you put the processors. You can put the processors close to the fixed broadband termination."
Initial elements of the new lightRadio product family will be tested in customer trials in the second half of 2011.
Lighter Is Greener
Alcatel-Lucent says lightRadio will reduce energy consumption of mobile networks by as much as 50 percent compared with current radio access network (RAN) equipment.
Another wireless vendor, DesignArt Networks, also has gone green with its new 40-nanometer 4G SOC platform family. The DAN3800 Baseband SOC targets next-generation, distributed, macro base-station equipment.
“Consuming only 8 watts, the DAN3800 delivers multiples in performance of currently available silicon solutions – powering an entire 4-sector LTE Advanced Macro BTS for the delivery of up to 1.2 Gbps of raw 4G data capacity – all with just one single DAN3800 Baseband SOC,” explained DesignArt Networks CTO Assaf Touboul in a statement.