Alcatel Lucent issued a press release this week describing a new system "that signals the end of the mobile industry's reliance on masts and base stations around the world." This system, which Alcatel Lucent calls lightRadio, breaks the base station into its component parts, putting some of the electronics into the antenna and the rest throughout a "cloud-like network."
A picture of the device in the Engadget article Alcatel-Lucent's lightRadio shoves a base station in a box, minimalists cheer shows the size of the individual active antenna elements.
Antenna elements can be used individually for "Metrocells" or combined into antenna arrays that allow electronic beam forming into "Macrocells." The lightRadio system consists of the "Wideband Active Array Antenna", the "Multiband Remote Radio Head", the "lightRadio Baseband Processing" and the "lightRadio Control." End-to-end management is provided through the 5620 Service Aware Manager. Antenna elements with radios connect via IP to controllers that connect to the wireless packet core.
Alcatel Lucent claims that the benefits of the lightRadio are dramatic: it improves the environment by reducing energy consumption by as much as 50 percent when compared to current network equipment; it addresses the digital divide by reducing the cell site to just the active antenna and a microwave link for connection to the network; it reduces the total cost of ownership for telecom operators by as much as 50 percent; and it enhances quality for end users by doubling macro capacity and reducing the cost per bit.
"Today's and tomorrow's demands for coverage and capacity require a breakthrough in mobile communications," said Ben Verwaayen, CEO of Alcatel Lucent. "lightRadio will signal the end of the base station and the cell tower as we know it today."
Alcatel's partners in lightRadio include Freescale and HP.