lightRadio™ Promises Greener, Simpler, Lighter Networks: Multi-Billion Euro Savings in Infrastructure & Power Costs, Addressing Major Elements of Global “Digital Divide”

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’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 Technology Innovation
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. 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.
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. 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.
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. Unique compression algorithms provide nearly a factor of three compression of IQ sample signals.
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. 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.

For detailed information on these elements please as well as a webcast replay of today’s press conference please visit www.alcatel-lucent.com/lightradio (replay available at 2:30 pm GMT). The lightRadio approach and technology path will be shown and explained further at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on 14-17 February.

“Alcatel-Lucent’s lightRadio approach is a revolutionary step in evolving traditional telecommunication networks to more heterogeneous networks with higher capacity and lower cost,” said Lisa Su, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Freescale’s Networking and Multimedia Group. “Freescale is collaborating with Alcatel-Lucent to provide the chip-based architectures through our new system-on-chip technology that supports the highly-flexible, multi-standard, programmable capability required to make lightRadio a reality.”

“Communication service providers will be better able to meet the shifting and growing demands placed on their networks as a result of the new lightRadio product family from Alcatel-Lucent,” said Sandeep Johri, vice president, Strategy and Solutions, Enterprise Business, HP. “As part of the lightRadio evolution, HP intends to work with Alcatel-Lucent in a co-creation fashion around the use of cloud and virtualization technologies in the mobile access space.”

“The day has finally come when service providers need to take a serious look at the road ahead in terms of technology and their economic models,” said Phil Marshall of Tolaga Research. “To survive and thrive, service providers must evolve network designs, embrace small cell sites and all-IP architectures and replace traditional network designs with flexible cloud-like architectures that can truly meet the data demands of the future.”

Broadcom aims for LTE and WiMax 4G with $316M Beceem Acquisition by Devindra Hardawar

Broadband chip maker Broadcom announced today that it has acquired Beceem Communications, a company that has developed technology to support multiple 4G networks, for approximately $316 million.

Beceem is the first company to develop a 4G “multimode platform” that can work on both LTE and WiMax 4G networks. Its technology can support peak speeds of up to 200Mbps and will give device manufacturers the freedom to build 4G devices without worrying what type of network they will be used on.

The purchase will supplement Broadcom’s move into 4G cellular networks. The company is already well-known for its 3G and 2G cellular solutions as well as other communication technology such as WiFi, Bluetooth, and GPS. It’s also the perfect time for Broadcom to gear up for 4G — Sprint’s WiMax coverage is increasing steadily thanks to its partnership with Clearwire, Verizon is readying the launch of its LTE network for this year, and AT&T plans to roll out its LTE network in 2012.

The LTE and WiMax technology divide is similar to the CDMA and GSM split that has kept cellular networks apart for some time. Similar to how you can’t use a Sprint CDMA phone on AT&T’s GSM network, you won’t be able to use a WiMax Sprint phone on AT&T’s LTE network. Beceem’s unifying technology solves that problem, which should put Broadcom in a good position once more cellular carriers and device manufacturers are ready to go 4G.

Beceem showed similar foresight years ago when it was one of the first companies to develop a mobile WiMax chipset. At the time, Intel was reselling the company’s chips for its own WiMax efforts. Now LTE looks like it will be the leading 4G standard, but Beceem wisely pivoted its technology to support both networks.

Based in Santa Clara, Calif., Beceem has raised at least $80 million since it was founded in 2003. We’re awaiting more complete funding details from the company.