A Golf ball-sized mobile phone base station currently being put to experimentation could bring a new revolution to the world of Mobile Co0mmunication technology. The amazing hand cupped size light Radio cube new tool can be deployed to ‘almost anywhere’ in the world.
The Mobile phone base station could help to bridge the digital divide and bring mobile broadband to distant areas both in the developing and developed world, the networking company Alcatel-Lucent has claimed.
The company said on Monday that its new technology, which shrinks many of the functions of a standard base station down to a few chips which fit in a cube it calls “lightRadio”, would mean that mobile networks could run their systems with lower power demands and half the cost overall, while broadening deployment.
The “lightRadio” technology, which will be tested by a number of mobile operators around the world including Orange, Verizon in the US and the world’s largest network, China Mobile, could halve network operating costs and do the same for power demands, said Wim Sweldens, head of the company’s mobile business at a presentation in London.
The base stations – reduced from the bulky cabinet of past years to a system-on-a-chip integrated circuit made by semiconductor company Freescale – can be installed wherever there is electricity, and can then connect either over an internet connection or via microwave links to processing units elsewhere.
That reduces the space needed to deploy the systems and means they can be put almost anywhere, said Sweldens. “The need for a [large] base station pretty much goes away.” The new lightRadio cubes would also be able to cover the same area as existing stations, Alcatel-Lucent said.
Sweldens said the new systems would “not replace but augment” the build-out of high-speed optical fibre networks. At present there are sharp disagreements between the UK government and would-be fibre optic providers over the cost of laying cable and the lack of subsidy and the levels of taxation on new fibre if it is not laid by BT.
“You can use fibre and put these cubes at the edge [of the fibre network] and connect them so that you can make a dramatic improvement in the area covered [by mobile broadband].”
Sweldens added: “lightRadio will help mobile operators evolve their networks to address the mobile broadband deluge.” The lightRadio represents a new approach 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.
The lower running costs and power needs could be crucial for network operators which are trying to cope with surging demands in data traffic, which Cisco forecasts will grow roughly 30-fold in the next five years.
“Operators will have to look at dramatic ways to cut costs – you cannot increase investment 30-fold,” Sweldens said.
The lightRadio cubes, each able to provide 2G, 3G and LTE (“4G”) radio connections, can be used individually or more usually in groups, where roughly 20 would be needed to provide the equivalent coverage as an existing base station.
Alcatel-Lucent said it has partnered with Freescale and with Hewlett-Packard which will provide computing services. Sweldens said the market for products such as lightRadio, which combine different network technologies, will grow to some €12bn (£5.8bn) in 2014, up from €7bn.
Ben Verwaayen, Alcatel-Lucent’s chief executive officer, said: “Today’s and tomorrow’s demands for coverage and capacity require a breakthrough in mobile communications.” He added: “lightRadio will signal the end of the basestation and the cell tower as we know it today.”
Governments and regulatory bodies are expected to welcome the technical development, which will help meet targets for universal broadband access by laying the foundation to address the so-called “digital divide”.
Source:Charles Arthur, technology editor, and Reuters Guardian