Telco 2.0 Q&A: Alcatel-Lucent's lightRadio innovation

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Following their Best Practice Live! Presentation (that you can still view here - you'll need to register) here are Alcatel-Lucent's answers to our further questions on the impact and practicality of their new small, intelligent cellular radio unit called lightRadio™.

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Q1. What trials are being deployed? Where and with whom? Or (if confidential), how many trials are you undertaking, where (roughly) and when will you release results?

Multiple wireless customers have signed on for trials as well as joined forces with Alcatel-Lucent to perform research and development specific to their needs. We are currently co-creating with major operators today having different needs (US, Europe and Asia) and plan trials during 2011. In 2012, the first commercial products will be available and the market will ramp during 2013.

Q2. Describe some of the practical issues you foresee and your answers to them, e.g. what is the dependency on spectrum allocations?

The new Antenna and RRH is a small cube with very low emission power (<2watts) and covering the broad wireless spectrum and all technologies (2G, 3G, LTE). As such, lightRadio™ is designed to operate in different frequency bands and technologies, addressing macro coverage and also small cells. As for the classical architectures in use today in 2G/3G/LTE, the country regulator will manage the spectrum allocation and wireless technologies licenses. lightRadio™ solutions are flexible to support several frequency bands and technologies and adapt to the different regulatory environments in every country.

Q3. How does lightRadio fit with trends towards network sharing? Is the kit "shareable", or would both operators need ALU kit?

On the base station side, lightRadio hardware can be shared among operators, the differentiation will be done at software level only. Different sharing models can be foreseen at the site: sharing site only (tower, power, ...), sharing site and radio elements (WB-AAA and MB-RRH), sharing site and radio and backhaul elements ... In addition, the lightRadio can allow new network sharing opportunities, for example with centralized BBU/pooling, the last mile (radio to BBU) fiber transport can be easily shared. The cloud controller could also optimize operators costs if smartly shared, for example each operators could pay only for the capacity used.

Q4. What are the regulatory trends about site permission for microcells / remote radios like this? Do these need to change? If so, how/when?

lightRadio™ solutions will reduce the number of elements required for wireless deployment. Fewer elements on the rooftops or cell towers will reduce the environmental constraints. Small cells deployments will allow operators to deploy added capacity where needed with low visual impact. In particular microcells or small cells, with lower transmit power and smaller physical size offer flexible site acquisitions. LightRadio will ease deployments and regulatory bodies are expected to welcome this trend.

Q5. What is the standardisation process around this type of innovation?

lightRadio™ solutions comply to the same standards that classical architectures for 2G/3G/LTE. One of the principles of this family of products is to integrate to legacy architectures and interwork with existing solutions.

Q6. What happens with mobility? Do small cells = more cell-to-cell handoffs = more signalling load on the network?

Small cells is an important part of the lightRadio™ strategy. The Alcatel-Lucent experience and leadership in 3G small cells has been key to anticipate such operators' concerns. As for small cells deployed today the lightRadio™ will be using software mechanisms to reduce signaling load and avoid ping-pong between macro and metro cells. Alcatel-Lucent will also fully integrate inherent LTE Heterogeneous Networks mechanisms standardized in 3GPP. This will allow operators to optimize the performance in networks using a mix of macro and small cells solutions.