Sprint will use Alcatel-Lucent’s (News - Alert) lightRadio solution in select areas of its 4G LTE mobile network, the companies announced today. This is the first customer to announce its intent to use the lightRadio products.
The lightRadio is a 2G/3G/LTE (News - Alert) solution is about the size of a child’s building block and can support up to 48 users. The lightRadio Metro Cells will initially be deployed in Sprint’s network to deliver extra capacity and better quality connections for indoor locations such as stadiums and campuses.
However, metro cells can be used in outdoor applications, and can be mounted on lamp posts or street signs as well.
What Alcatel-Lucent calls metrocells might be referred to some others as picocells, as noted in a TMCnet story earlier this year. Alcatel-Lucent, however, says its metrocells are unique from picocells in that they are based on the company’s lightRadio technology, which uses beam forming that makes amplifiers on the radio towers more energy efficient, have an extremely small footprint, and lower the cost per bit for carriers.
Metro cells are part of Alcatel-Lucent’s hetnet strategy, which also includes macrocells and carrier-grade Wi-Fi. (Alcatel-Lucent introduced a Wi-Fi-enabled version of lightRadio on Feb. 14.) Hetnet is a term being used throughout the industry; it describes the new heterogeneous wireless network comprised of large and smaller cells that may be based on various cellular and other wireless technologies.
Bringing more, smaller cells into the network, and managing traffic in a way to help optimize cellular operators’ resources, requires an intelligent approach to network and subscriber management, according to Alcatel-Lucent. The company has told TMCnet that picocells and macrocells must have the intelligence to communicate with one another to decide which is best suited at any particular time to take on new users as they traverse the wireless network.
Alcatel-Lucent’s gear does this using a method called COMP, or co-operative radio, which evolved from MIMO technology. COMP is now part of the 3GPP specs, but came out of the Bell Labs (News - Alert) entity of Alcatel-Lucent.
Alcatel-Lucent at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this February in Barcelona, Spain, talked to TMCnet about its new metrocells and said that these products were in trials with three customers. At that time, Alcatel-Lucent said Etilsat, in the United Arab Emirates, was among the service providers that had been testing the lightRadio Metro Radio Outdoor product – in this case over a working 4G LTE network.
A year prior, at Mobile World Congress in 2011 Alcatel-Lucent told TMCnet that China Mobile (News - Alert), Orange, Verizon and two other wireless carriers had already endorsed the product.
Sprint will leverage lightRadio as part of its Network Vision initiative. As previously reported by TMCnet, Network Vision is the name of Sprint’s program to combine its existing networks through the introduction and integration of new, disruptive technologies. The goal is to enable Sprint to deliver, capacity, coverage and longevity of services like nothing that’s available today, according to the company.
Getting there involves replacing Sprint’s existing network with brand new software-based equipment at the cell sites, installing some new gear for backhaul, and leveraging the company’s spectrum assets on a number of fronts.
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Edited by Braden Becker