Telefónica unveils smart 4G experience at Mobile World Congress [Telefónica press release, Feb 26, 2012] or After a Year of Close Collaboration with Alcatel-Lucent and with the Support of Samsung, Telefonica Unveils Smart 4G Experience at Mobile World Congress [Alcatel Lucent press release, Feb 26, 2012]
– Telefónica’s smarter 4G delivers increased capacity in high data-traffic density areas and greater bandwidth than current LTE networks, as well as superior indoor coverage.
– Small-cell technology speeds up network deployment, reduces costs and makes more efficient use of spectrum use and costs.
– First LTE deployment of its kind at 2.6Ghz band frequency and the first time that real users will be able to experience the benefits of the 4G technology of the future.
Telefónica today announced the first live experience of the world’s ‘smartest’ 4G network, in the most ambitious technological innovation ever deployed at the Mobile World Congress. The network – the world´s first of its kind in the 2.6Ghz frequency band – provides download speeds of 100 Mbps, between 40-60Mbps on upload, vastly improved indoor coverage and can increase capacity by up to 400 per cent in high density data-traffic areas.
Based on Alcatel-Lucent‘s lightRadio technology, Telefónica‘s network is a revolutionary first step towards a real ‘HetNet’ network, which greatly improves mobile coverage by bringing small-cell base stations closer to the customer. In this deployment conventional radio base stations co-exist with 4G metro cells (small base stations incorporating antennas and radio) working on the same frequency and with no interference. As a strong supporter for Telefonica‘s LTE service initiative, Samsungis also presenting the first LTE smart mobile devices for band 7 (2.6Ghz), GALAXY S II LTE smartphone and GALAXY Tab 8.9 LTE tablet, which can be used on this new high-capacity network.
The most significant feature of Telefónica‘s LTE network is its increased capacity – with each cell comfortably supporting 30 people browsing simultaneously with average speed of 30Mbps. Tests conducted on this network show that a 400% increase in capacity can be made available to users compared to a conventional network design, and that significantly higher capacity gains could be delivered with denser metro-network design. The network supports speeds of up to 10 times those offered by the 3G network, with download speeds of 100Mbps, upload speeds of 40-60 Mbps and with latency times of around 20-25 milliseconds.
‘Today the future of mobile networks begins’, said Enrique Blanco, Telefónica‘s Chief Technology Officer. ‘The deployment of LTE that Telefónica has brought to the MWC, together with Alcatel -Lucent, gives us a glimpse of a tomorrow where everyone and everything is seamlessly connected, and in superfast time. But the challenge ahead is to ensure that all the technologies currently being deployed – 2G, 3G, LTE, Wi-Fi and Fiber – can co-exist to deliver next generation communications. Telefónica’s strategy is to develop intelligent networks that allow these different technologies to co-exist efficiently and cover customers’ growing connectivity needs in markets that are at different stages of development’.
Another key benefit of the advanced feature network is that it utilises the same frequency for several network layers, allowing for far more efficient use of spectrum. This solution would also reduce network deployment costs by as much as 40 per cent, as the installation of small-cells significantly reduces the amount of construction, installation and configuration work needed. Additionally, small-cells use less powerful amplification equipment, resulting in energy savings of up to 35 per cent and a guaranteed reduction in environmental impact.
Wim Sweldens, President of Alcatel-Lucent‘s Wireless Division said: ‘This close collaboration with Telefónica through our co-creation programme is a clear articulation of the future of mobile broadband – rather than merely evolving their current architecture, which was designed for voice and messaging, Telefónica is making fast progress toward building a mobile broadband network designed with the future in mind. The wireless network of the future needs to be lighter, greener and closer to customers and deliver much higher capacity – that is what lightRadio is all about’.
‘Samsung has been actively collaborating with Telefónica for LTE trial services with a variety of device line-up from LTE dongles to MiFi and LTE smartphones across European markets. I am excited to join Telefónica’s breakthrough LTE demonstration with our representative LTE models, GALAXY S II LTE and GALAXY Tab 8.9 LTE’, said DJ Lee, executive vice president and head of Sales and Marketing team for SamsungMobile. ‘We are fully committed to supporting Telefónica’s LTE roll-out and hopefully will try to expand our LTE partnerships not only for European markets but also including Latin American markets. Our ambition is to become a number one LTE partner for Telefónica’.
Visitors to MWC will be able to experience first-hand the wide range of options generated by this innovative network at the Telefónica stand (Hall 8), where the smallest metro cells in the market and the latest LTE devices from Samsung are being exhibited. A video wall will demonstrate the capabilities of the network by projecting filmed live at the congress and delivered via LTE. The Samsung LTE devices will be used for high-definition videoconferences. This will demonstrate for both applications the improvements in speeds of both links for uploads and downloads. There will be real-ime gaming demonstrations as well as augmented reality and hypermedia applications that highlight the latency and versatility of the network.
– Alcatel-Lucent collaborates with Telefonica to bring the first superfast 4G mobile broadband services to consumers in Spain [Alcatel-Lucent press release, Sept 14, 2011]
– lightRadio™: Evolve your wireless broadband network for the new generation of applications and users [Alcatel-Lucent microsite, Feb 27, 2012]
– Wi-Fi goes mobile with Alcatel-Lucent [Alcatel-Lucent press release for lightRadio WiFi, Feb 14, 2012]
– lightRadio WiFi [Alcatel-Lucent microsite, Feb 14, 2012]
- Operators can deliver up to 10-times more capacity by deploying a 1:10 ratio of small- to macro cells
- The lightRadio Network can improve capacity by up to 70%
- A modular and virtualized architecture lets operators adapt to changing usage patterns
The rising demand for mobile broadband services is straining legacy wireless networks. Operators face increasing pressure to deliver the rich quality of experience (QoE)their customers and partners expect. To meet these expectations and remain competitive, they need cost-effective and sustainable network architectures that can deliver increased connectivity and capacity on demand.
QoE: The new currency in the mobile value chain
As the focus of mobile wireless communications shifts from voice to data, users attach greater importance to QoE. Today’s users expect fast wireless networks, comprehensive coverage and uninterrupted connectivity. There’s no room for delays, dropped connections or peak-time congestion in their vision of mobile broadband.
Users clearly value QoE, but application and content providers (ACPs) depend on it. Whether ACPs offer TV streams, interactive apps or video conferencing services, QoE plays a central role in their success. They have a vested interest in ensuring that users enjoy the best possible experience. For this, ACPs rely on mobile operators and their networks.
To move up the mobile value chain and attract partnerships with ACPs, operators have to deliver on QoE. Operators can control QoE, for example, by managing bit rates or by making it easy for users to switch between 2G/3G/LTE networks and Wi-Fi hotspots. But they need to control it more efficiently to prove their value as partners and providers and position themselves as the ideal channel for delivering value-added applications and content.
The QoE and capacity challenge
Legacy macro networks were built to support voice services, a task they perform extremely well. But the demand for mobile broadband data services adds new and more complex challenges to wireless networks. Operators who retrofit voice networks for data face a host of new challenges.
For example, operators don’t always have spectrum for mobile broadband services. This makes it tough to meet demand for data. Increasing indoor wireless use also presents problems. Outdoor macro towers can’t always deliver sufficient data rates, coverage and capacity to users in homes and offices.
Today, operators are constantly trying to squeeze more capacity out of legacy networks. One common strategy is cell splitting — adding cells, towers and sites. This can be complex and expensive, and zoning rules can even make it impossible in some areas. Operators that don’t evolve their networks — or don’t evolve fast enough — may be left behind by customers and competitors who embrace next-generation equipment.
Building wireless networks for an unpredictable future
Mobile operators want wireless networks that can help them tackle the challenges of today and tomorrow. These challenges include:
- Adding capacity where users want and need it
- Ensuring that customer QoE is met
- Building a cost-effective foundation for addressing future demand
- Delivering eco-sustainable solutions
Smartphone penetration and mobile data traffic are increasing rapidly. According to Vision Mobile, in the 3rd quarter of 2011 smartphone shipments penetration surpassed 29% globally.People still use their phones mostly for voice — on a time basis. However, they consume more data with apps including video streaming, music, web browsing and social networking from their homes, offices and in the community. They connect to hotspots in high-traffic areas like stadiums, public squares and hotels. Operators have to provide more capacity in more locations to ensure that QoE follows users wherever they go.
While no one can say for certain what capacity needs will be in 5 years, we do have reasonably good models for the next 6 months to a year. However, if a new type of device like the Apple iPhone® or iPad®arrives on the market it could cause a major disruption. What we know right now is that new wireless devices — smartphones, tablets, gaming consoles, in-car devices — will fuel demand by supporting smarter applications and richer content. Wireless networks will need to be flexible enough to handle whatever demand the future brings. And they’ll need to do it while keeping costs low.
It’s not all about delivering more capacity and richer experiences. Operators need to consider the environment, too. The next generation of wireless network architectures must have a smaller carbon footprint. This means consuming less power. It also means deploying elements that use less space and blend in with what’s around them. No one wants to see more towers and more bulky equipment.
The lightRadio™ Network advantage
Alcatel-Lucent has introduced the lightRadioNetwork to empower operators to deliver on their present and future challenges. It seamlessly increases capacity and extends it to more places, helping operators satisfy users and generate new revenue. It reduces power consumption and footprint, enabling operators to promote sustainability and bottom-line growth. And it provides an effective foundation for supporting future demand, helping operators manage capacity and cost.
For users, it all comes down to QoE. With the lightRadio Network, users get higher throughputs to support the rich experiences they crave. In contrast to traditional wireless networks, this support is continuous: Whether indoors, outdoors or on the move, users switch seamlessly to the best possible network. There’s no need to pause a video or interrupt an application to select a hotspot or enter a password.
A closer look
The lightRadio Network is inherently heterogeneous bringing together a broad range of technologies and different types of access nodes. At the same time, the architecture is homogenous: Its components share the same platforms, control and management. These components can include:
- Small cells, which extend coverage indoors and in hotspots. Small cells perform efficiently in residences and businesses. They work best when deployed close to users, for example, on lamp posts or walls in train stations or shopping centers. In a given network, operators can deliver up to 10-times more throughput by deploying a 1:10 ratio of small cells to macro cells.
- lightRadio wideband active antenna arrays (WB-AAA), popularly known as cubes, that use advanced interference management algorithms to create overlapping zones of high signal strength. Known as vertical sectorization, this increases capacity and coverage for a given area. These comparatively low-power elements make more efficient use of spectrum. When deployed in a macro environment, they can improve capacity by up to 70%.This improved capacity can help operators attract users and generate more revenue.
- Wi-Fi hotspots, that allow operators to offer additional options for access to high bandwidth data users. This has the dual benefit of keeping the end user satisfied and allowing the operator to take some traffic off costly cellular spectrum. The lightRadio architecture uses a common core network to support Wi-Fi and cellular access. Users can seamlessly switch between the two without having to enter a new password.
All of these components support sharing and virtualization, which help operators deliver more flexible capacity and control. For example, operators can connect lightRadio cubes to external baseband units (BBUs) to serve hotspots that require massive capacity, such as sports arenas. Or, operators can scale and share control capacity to cost-effectively improve performance at specific places and times. This can help overcome traffic spikes that arise as new devices connect to the data network.
Making the move
Operators face no significant barriers to making the move to the lightRadio Network. While each operator has a unique starting point based on its own business needs and operating environment they have a number of things in common. They need modular, flexible wireless networks that can address data demand and keep costs in check.
This new network architecture helps operators kick-start transformation with the wireless infrastructure, spectrum and multivendor networks they have now. An effective transformation includes:
- Targeting capacity problems in hotspots and indoors
- Migrating to LTE for efficient spectrum usage
- Adding a WB-AAA architecture for more capacity per site
- Virtualizing capacity and control for more flexibility
Operators can control costs by scaling capacity in manageable increments. These strategies and savings can extend to many parts of the network, including wireless backhaul links, small sites and legacy equipment.
By alleviating concerns about capacity, scalability and cost, the lightRadio network architecture offers operators the chance to rethink the challenges of the present and future. It can help them swap a defensive stance — coping with demand — for a positive approach focused on turning mobile broadband demand into new revenue.
To contact the author or request additional information, please send an email to email@example.com.
 Mobile Platforms: The Clash of Ecosystems, VisionMobile, Nov. 2011; http://www.visionmobile.com/blog/2011/11/new-report-mobile-platforms-the-clash-of-ecosystems/. ↩
 iPhone® and iPad® are trademarks of Apple Inc. ↩
 Based on Alcatel-Lucent study, 2011. ↩
 ibid. ↩
Day 3: Alcatel-Lucent at MWC 2012 – Cloud solutions [AlcatelLucentCorp YouTube channel, Feb 29, 2012]
Alcatel-Lucent and China Mobile accelerate development of lightRadio™ to support exploding customer demand for mobile broadband in China [Alcatel Lucent press release, Feb 28, 2012]
Teams sign lightRadio™ architecture co-creation agreement to accelerate the development and delivery of lightning fast mobile broadband services in a sustainable way
Alcatel-Lucent (Euronext Paris and NYSE: ALU) and China Mobile have signed a co-creationagreement under which teams from the two companies are conducting joint development and test activities on a series of lightRadio projects at Alcatel-Lucent’s Stuttgart lab. The work will help to accelerate the smooth commercial introduction of this groundbreaking new product family to meet China Mobile’s business initiatives and support growing customer demand for high-bandwidth mobile broadband services.
China Mobile is the world’s largest mobile provider. Benefiting from the dramatic growth in mobile Internet use, China Mobile had around 650 million subscribers by the end of 2011. – and that number is growing at a rate of 11.2% year over year. Those customers are increasingly adopting smart phones, tablets and other mobile devices which is driving massive demand for high-bandwidth mobile data services such as video and Internet gaming.
This co-creation agreement follows the non-binding MoU signed between Alcatel-Lucent and China Mobile in mid 2011. It also builds on the collaboration between the companies on the delivery of superfast mobile broadband using TD-LTE technology and the announcement of the first Trans-Pacific lightRadio video call. This agreement defines the projects that will be undertaken by the two companies and kicks off the co-development activities. This collaboration will speed the introduction of the lightRadio product prototype to the second half of the year.
Alcatel-Lucent’s lightRadio™ reduces the size of traditional mobile base stations to a Rubik’s cube, while lowering power-consumption and allowing the transfer of vast amounts of data at lightning fast speeds.
Ben Verwaayen, CEO of Alcatel-Lucent, said: “The ability for us to pair with the world’s largest mobile provider to gain deeper insight into its customer behaviours and the way services are evolving will ensure we develop lightRadio in the right direction. The knowledge we gain from implementing lightRadio to support the delivery of mobile broadband services to 650 million people will help us to meet the growing demand for services across the globe.
The co-creation agreement was signed by Bill Huang, president of China Mobile Research Institute and Wim Sweldens, president of Alcatel-Lucent Wireless Division, on January 13 at Alcatel-Lucent’s Bell Labs headquarters in Murray Hill, New Jersey. Li Zhengmao, Vice President of China Mobile, and Jeong Kim, President of Alcatel-Lucent Bell Labs attended the signing ceremony.
Under the terms of the agreement, China Mobile engineers have already begun working with Alcatel-Lucent’s R&D team in the company’s lab in Stuttgart Germany. The two companies will co-work on a series of lightRadio joint development projects including the cube-based radio, baseband unit (BBU) pooling and redefining the radio architecture. By bringing together talents from both companies, these projects will support China Mobile’s evolving business initiatives, including the introduction of high-speed TD-LTE mobile broadband technology, encourage idea-generation and facilitate the smooth commercial implementation of lightRadio.
Day 4: Alcatel-Lucent at MWC 2012 – Rise above the data storm [AlcatelLucentCorp YouTube channel, March 2, 2012]
Video of Day 4 at Mobile World Congress 2012. The big discussion at MWC is about the data storm, the demand for mobile broadband services driven by the customers and anytime, anywhere access to these services. … How operators rise above the data storm? For capacity (serving more users in the peak hours), for having lower costs per bit (to get to the mass market), and for monetizing more often (in 65% of time or more the networks are not in a peak). How they do that? They do that with lightRadio which gives them an IP platform, mobile broadband platform end-to-end. … Best infrastructure technology 2012 goes to lightRadio and the Cube. … “This thing has transformed our company. It has transformed the way that we develop products. It has trasformed the way people looked at us. And this will for the long period to come be the symbol of the new Alcatel-Lucent.” — Ben Verwaayen, CEO, Alcatel-Lucent.
MWC: The fastest show on Earth [by Ben Verwaayen, CEO, Alcatel-Lucent, March 1, 2012]
And the GSMA award for best infrastructure technology goes to… lightRadio!
MWC, the fastest show on earth for anybody who is somebody in the telecoms world, is always an amazing event.
What is clear this year is that the world is flatter than ever before. Innovation is coming from all corners of the globe and there is no region that is excluded from the information and video revolution.
As a result players are on the move. Policy makers, regulators, operators, technology providers, service providers, application developpers, all are chasing the customer driving the change.
She happens to be 14 year old and she was dearly missed at the exhibition. Her focus is services, video, chatting, facebooking on multiple screens.
She wants to be identified as a person, recognized for her preferences and protected against undue approaches. She doesn’t care about cloud or tablet or smartphone, she wants cool services on a cool device and be able to afford it.
There are so many that agree with her that the market dynamics are changing worldwide.
Alcatel-Lucent had a great win in Barcelona. We won the infrastructure of the year award for lightRadio, our cubesized basestation, that performed in real traffic wonders for Telefonica. Customers loved the stand, they agreed with the need to make the network relevant in the journey ahead. We have never seen so much interest in our latest portfolio of Services, Applications and Products.
So, days packed, staff worked 24/7 but it was a great experience.
Details of the lightRadio technology (copied from the earlier post: Good TD-LTE potential for target commercialisation by China Mobile in 2012 [July 13, 2011 – Feb 8, 2012])
lightRadioTM is a disruptive Wireless Architecture that enables operators the opportunity to develop next generation converged 2G/3G/LTE Radio Networks. Valérie Layan – VP Wireless Solutions EMEA at Alcatel-Lucent outlined how this unique solution offers a dramatic new way of building networks that will enable Macro and Small Cell integration, offer Opex savings of more than 50% compared to Classic BTS design and set the course for Wireless & Wireline convergence.
LIGHTRADIO CONNECTS THE WORLD [June 15, 2011]
The world’s first long-distance, high-quality mobile video-call using lightRadio™ – a breakthrough system pioneered by Alcatel-Lucent (Euronext Paris and NYSE: ALU) to transform the economics and efficiency of mobile telephony– has successfully taken place from the historic desk of Alexander Graham Bell.
Industry executives, technology leaders and analysts witnessed the inaugural lightRadio video call made from the headquarters of Bell Labs, the innovation engine of Alcatel-Lucent and now home to Graham Bell’s desk, from which he made the first-ever long-distance phone call.
Chris Lewis, Group Vice President of industry analysts IDC, hosted the call from Bell Labs in Murray Hill, New Jersey, connecting with Ben Verwaayen, Chief Executive of Alcatel-Lucent in Paris, and delegates at a business conference in Miami.
lightRadio is the name of a family of technologies which are set to transform mobile communications, improving the quality of network services for consumers while dramatically reducing the size, carbon footprint and energy consumption of mobile base stations.
After participating in the call, Ben Verwaayen, said: “We have taken lightRadio from the drawing-board to a fully working system, creating an entirely new system to connect customers around the world.”
The launch of lightRadio will help address exploding demand for mobile broadband services and increasing global consumption of wireless content. This has been fuelled by the adoption of smartphones and the popularity of video applications, social networking and mobile gaming services– all requiring wireless service providers to provide greater speed and capacity everywhere.
Network operators such as France Telecom/Orange, Telefonica and China Mobile are now engaged with Alcatel-Lucent in co-creating the market implementation of lightRadio. The system is expected to deliver significant operational savings for carriers and infrastructure owners by marking an end to the existing system of complex base stations and large cell towers.
This week’s inaugural call demonstrates lightRadio’s ability to handle high levels of data, meeting demand from customers increasingly using mobile video on Internet-networks. Among breakthroughs promised by the system, it will reduce mobile network energy consumption by 50% – compared with current equipment; enable roll-out of mobile broadband services to new marketsusing sustainable-power sources; and deliver major savings for operators.
Alcatel-Lucent predicts that lightRadio will help cut the cost of mobile infrastructure site, energy consumption, operations and maintenance. Bell Labs estimates that the total cost of ownership of mobile networks, the sum spent by mobile operators on access systems, reached 150 billion Euros in 2010.
More information about Alcatel-Lucent’s lightRadio portfolio can found online at http://www.alcatel-lucent.com/lightradio.
Alcatel-Lucent today announced it has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with China Mobile, the world’s largest mobile operator and a leader in TD-SCDMA and TD-LTE, for the development of a next-generation radio access network (RAN). The MOU was signed by Alcatel-Lucent Shanghai Bell, Alcatel-Lucent’s flagship company in China.
Alcatel-Lucent and China Mobile will jointly launch technical and economic studies and investigate the technologies essential to build a centralized, collaborative, Cloud-based RAN (C-RAN) in order to set new standards for cost-effectiveness, network intelligence and energy-efficiency (“green”). The C-RAN will provide a common platform for multi-mode wireless standards such as GSM, 3G, and LTE, enabling to significantly improve network quality and coverage, reduce transmission resource consumption and lower OPEX by up to 50% and CAPEX by 15%.
Rajeev Singh-Molares, president of Alcatel-Lucent’s activities in Asia-Pacific said: “The partnership with China Mobile is directly addressing the challenges of high energy costs, explosion of mobile video and sustainable development. By helping them replace traditional network designs with flexible cloud-like architectures, we are preparing the future and help show the way in terms of technology and economic models.”
The strategic partnership for C-RAN will leverage Alcatel-Lucent’s recently-announced lightRadio, a breakthrough in mobile and broadband infrastructure to streamline and radically simplify mobile networks. Pioneered by Bell Labs, Alcatel-Lucent’s research and development arm, the new lightRadio system will dramatically reduce operating costs, technical complexity and power consumption. 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 reducing 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 distributed through the antenna or the network for cloud-like processing. Additionally the various cell site tower antennas are combined and shrunk into a single small powerful, Bell Labs-pioneered multi frequency, multi standard (2G, 3G, LTE) device that can be mounted on poles, sides of buildings or anywhere else there is power and a broadband connection.
The partnership with China Mobile also reflects Alcatel-Lucent’s strong commitment to sustainable development and to Green as testified, in particular, by its leading role in theGreenTouch™ Consortium, a global research initiative dedicated to dramatically improving the energy efficiency of information and communications technology (ICT) networks by a factor of 1,000. GreenTouch™ recently presented a Large-Scale Antenna System proof of concept offering the potential for tremendous energy savings thanks to its novel wireless transmission techniques.
Alcatel-Lucent maps the future of mobile technology [Feb 7, 2011]
Alcatel-Lucent (Euronext Paris and NYSE: ALU) 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 is also in advanced planning with China Mobile as well as a number of other carriers around the globe around co-creation and field trials of the lightRadio solution.
Alcatel-Lucent studies have concluded that the total addressable opportunity for the multi-technology radio market1, which lightRadio addresses, will be over 12 billion Euros in 2014, representing more than 55% of the total wireless RAN market. The cumulative total addressable market will be over 100 billion Euros from 2011-2018.
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 http://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.
 The multi-technology radio market consists of radio access base stations that simultaneously support 2G, 3G, and LTE, and multiple frequencies, in the same platform.
“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.”
The Disappearing Mobile Masts and Towers [Feb 7, 2011]
The looming global gridlock in mobile communications promises to be averted following the launch today of pioneering technology which will remove the bottlenecks constraining mobile networks and help deliver universal broadband coverage.
Alcatel-Lucent (Euronext Paris and NYSE: ALU), the leading network technology group, has joined forces with industry partners to develop lightRadio™, a new system that signals the end of the mobile industry’s reliance on masts and base stations around the world.
Ben Verwaayen, Chief Executive Officer of Alcatel-Lucent, 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.”
Other major benefits from lightRadio™ include:
- Shrinking the carbon footprint of mobile networks by over 50%
- Reducing the Total-Cost-of-Ownership of mobile operators by up to 50%
- Improving end user services by significantly increasing bandwidth per user thanks to the deployment of small antennas everywhere
Wim Sweldens, President of Alcatel-Lucent’s Wireless Division said: “lightRadio will help mobile operators evolve their networks to address the mobile broadband deluge.”
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.
lightRadio also shrinks today’s clutter of antennas serving 2G, 3G, and LTE systems into a single powerful, Bell Labs-pioneered antenna that can be mounted on poles, sides of buildings or anywhere else there is power and a broadband connection.
The innovation coincides with growing demand for third-and-fourth generation mobile networks and devices, involving the mass adoption of wireless television services and other forms of broadband content. The total addressable market for the radio technology necessary to serve such networks and devices is expected to exceed €100bn1 over the next seven years.
Alcatel-Lucent announced the lightRadio™ technical specifications and launch timetable at an industry event in London today. Visit http://www.alcatel-lucent.com/lightradiofor product press release and link to event replay (available at 2:30 GMT).
 This is the total addressable market for multi-technology radio solutions that consist of radio access base stations that simultaneously support 2G, 3G, and LTE, and multiple frequencies in the same platform
Freescale Semiconductor – the communications processing leader and provider of industry-leading DSP technology – is transforming the future of wireless infrastructure equipment with the introduction of a highly integrated base station-on-chip portfolio built on advanced heterogeneous multicore technology. Freescale’s new QorIQ Qonverge seriesis the first scalable family of products sharing the same architecture to address multi-standard requirements spanning from small to large cells.
The explosion of smart connected devices with increasing data and video content has created a mobile data tsunami, requiring OEMs and carriers to dramatically boost network performance while controlling capital expenditure costs, increasing power efficiency and supporting the emergence of 4G technologies.
The QorIQ Qonverge portfolio of base station-on-chip products is based on a common architecture and integrates communications processing, digital signal processing and wireless acceleration technologies into a single system-on-chip in various configurations optimized for next-generation femtocell, picocell, metrocell and macrocell base stations. Advanced process technology and exceptional integration allow the convergence of multiple functions traditionally performed on separate FPGAs, ASICs, DSPs and processors to be incorporated on a single device. This integration lowers part counts and delivers significant power, cost and footprint reductions for base stations. The common architecture spanning from femto cells to macro cells optimizes R&D investments and software reuse.
“The current explosion in mobile data traffic worldwide provides unique challenges and opportunities for wireless infrastructure equipment providers as they race to increase capacity and capability,” said Lisa Su, senior vice president and general manager of Freescale’s Networking and Multimedia Group. “Freescale’s highly integrated QorIQ Qonverge portfolio enables base station manufacturers to provide a dramatic, step-function improvement in performance, power and cost in a single, flexible architecture.”
QorIQ Qonverge technology can deliver 4x cost reduction and 3x power reduction for LTE + WCDMA macro base stations, and 4x cost and power reductions for LTE + WCDMA pico base stationswhen compared to wireless infrastructure equipment powered by discrete silicon products.
“By integrating multiple industry-leading technologies into one scalable product line, Freescale’s QorIQ Qonverge portfolio delivers significant innovation that advances the state of wireless networking at this pivotal time for the industry,” said Will Strauss, president and principal analyst of Forward Concepts. “The QorIQ Qonverge portfolio presents a unique solution and strengthens Freescale’s position as a processing technology leader in the wireless infrastructure space.”
Freescale leveraged its broad R&D scale, deep application knowledge of the wireless space and extensive IP portfolio to develop the new product family. QorIQ Qonverge processors combine multiple Power Architecture® cores and high-performance StarCore DSPs with a MAPLE multimode baseband accelerator, packet processing acceleration engines, interconnect fabric and next-node process technology. The portfolio’s products support multiple standards, including GSM, LTE – FDD & TDD, LTE-Advanced, HSPA+, TD-SCDMA and WiMAX. In addition, the family’s flexible architecture allows support for evolving standards with software upgrades.
“Freescale’s innovative QorIQ Qonverge platform provides the integration, performance, energy efficiency and unmatched scalability that our new lightRadio™ product portfolio requires,” said Wim Sweldens, president of Alcatel-Lucent’s Wireless Division. “Game-changing products like lightRadio disaggregate the base station between the network and the wideband active antenna, produce dramatic cost savings and need components that provide giant leaps forward such as Freescale’s new QorIQ Qonverge technology.”
“Freescale’s QorIQ Qonverge product line gives us the flexibility to cost-effectively address the widest possible small cell market by providing a common architecture and multimode capabilities, along with the programmability for us to incorporate our own advancements,” said Michael Clark, Airvana’s general manager for femtocell business. “We look forward to working with Freescale to help accelerate the deployment of small cells in next-generation wireless networks.”
According to analyst firm Infonetics, radio access network base station spending is projected to be $197 billion worldwide over the next four years.
Customers can develop best-of-breed solutions with ease by combining their own differentiated IP with off-the-shelf components from Freescale and ecosystem partners. Freescale has assembled a rich ecosystem of technology leaders focused on wireless applications. Products and services from these partners can be combined with third party tools, as well as Freescale’s CodeWarrior technologies and VortiQa application software. This ecosystem can provide ODMs and OEMs Layer 1 – 4 software, transport and security stacks, RF technologies, test and measurement capabilities and ODM solutions.
A development platform based on the P2020-MSC8156 AMC bundled with partner software and RF solutions is available immediately for rapid software development. In addition, Freescale offers a wide portfolio of GaAs MMICs and LDMOS RF solutions for consumer and enterprise pico and femto cells.
QorIQ Qonverge products
The QorIQ Qonverge portfolio includes four distinct products optimized for small cell (femto and pico) and large cell (metro and macro) applications. It also supports remote radio head and emerging cloud-based radio access network (C-RAN) configurations.
The first products in Freescale’s QorIQ Qonverge multicore portfolio are built in 45-nm process technology and planned for availability in the second half of 2011. The products are the PSC9130/PSC9131 femto SoCs and PSC9132 picocell/enterprise femto SoC devices. Freescale plans to introduce portfolio members targeting larger cell (metro and macro) base stations built in 28-nm process technology later this year.
PSC9130/31 Femto SoC
8-16 users (WCDMA, LTE, CDMA2K) and simultaneous multimode
1x e500 and 1x SC3850
PSC9132 Pico/Enterprise Femto SoC
32-64 users (WCDMA, LTE) and simultaneous multimode
2x e500 and 2x SC3850
About Freescale Semiconductor
Freescale Semiconductor is a global leader in the design and manufacture of embedded semiconductors for the automotive, consumer, industrial and networking markets. The privately held company is based in Austin, Texas, and has design, research and development, manufacturing and sales operations around the world. www.freescale.com.
Supporting Partner Quotes Follow
Enea “Enea currently provides a breadth of leading software solutions to support Freescale’s extensive portfolio of networking IP,” said Marcus Hjortsberg, vice president of Marketing for Enea. “We look forward to playing a role in unleashing the innovative capabilities of Freescale’s new QorIQ Qonverge hybrid multicore portfolio.”
Green Hills “With a long history of optimized support for Freescale’s multicore and multiprocessor platforms, we are excited to see Freescale’s next-generation wireless base station solution,” said Dan Mender, vice president of Business Development, Green Hills Software. “QorIQ customers use our multicore development tools and scalable real-time operating systems, MULTI and INTEGRITY, to conquer today’s multicore challenges and we look forward to supporting them as they adopt the QorIQ Qonverge portfolio.”
Mentor Graphics “The integration of StarCore DSP technology with Power Architecture cores in the new Freescale QorIQ Qonverge portfolio is a major advancement for the wireless industry. We see great potential for this class of heterogeneous multi-core designs,” said Glenn Perry, general manager of the Mentor Graphics Embedded Software Division. “The Mentor Embedded Linux platform for Freescale devices combined with CodeSourcery software development tools will enable our mutual customers to develop advanced, innovative and scalable systems with increased performance and power efficiency.”
Aricent “We are thrilled to be partnering with Freescale to accelerate development of new best-in-class solutions in the wireless infrastructure market,” said C.P. Murali, executive vice president and general manager at Aricent. “Our comprehensive suite of software frameworks and product engineering services enable customers to rapidly introduce innovative solutions based on Qonverge technology.”
Continuous Computing “We are proud to be a member of Freescale’s technology partner program and for Freescale to be a member of the Continuous Computing Network,” said Todd Mersch, director of Product Line Management at Continuous Computing. “Together we offer customers a complete range of femto to macro base station solutions consisting of Trillium wireless software and the latest advances in the QorIQ Qonverge portfolio of processors.”
Critical Blue ”Freescale’s QorIQ Qonverge platform is architecturally very innovative. Meeting next-generation network speed requirements will require software developers to make knowledgeable choices in application partitioning and task allocation to the different types of cores on these platforms,” said David Stewart, chief executive officer of CriticalBlue. “The development program we have ongoing with Freescale will ensure that our Prism tool has all the capabilities needed to support a smart methodology for software developers, enabling them to get the maximum benefit from targeting the QorIQ Qonverge platform.”
L&T Infotech “L&T Infotech is excited to collaborate and build world-class wireless solutions based on Freescale’s QorIQ Qonverge portfolio,” said Sudip Banerjee, chief executive officer for L&T Infotech. “Our end-to-end telecom proficiency spans the entire wireless domain, with proven expertise on LTE/WiMAX, multicore technologies, network security and optical transport networks, ultimately enabling accelerated time-to-market for our client’s products.”
Signalion “We are pleased to support Freescale’s QorIQ Qonverge portfolio with our world-class wireless test technologies to ensure high-performance equipment, service and end-user experiences,” said Tim Hentschel, managing director for Signalion GmbH. “Freescale is charting new territory with the QorIQ Qonverge hybrid portfolio that promises to transform the future of wireless infrastructure equipment.”
Tata-Elxsi “The introduction of theQorIQ Qonverge portfolio means OEMs now have a single-architecture, compatible family of products to address all their base station design needs,” said Shyam Ananthnarayan, head of the Communications Business Unit at Tata Elxsi. “As a key member of Freescale’s rich ecosystem, Tata Elxsi will offer market-leading LTE eNodeB software stacks optimized to ease customers’ development of best-of-breed solutions based on Qonverge technology.”
Wireless support and network functions converge in QorIQ Qonverge processors [By Tom Thompson, June 16, 2011]
Wireless communication seems ubiquitous these days–until you wander into a dead zone and lose the network connection to your laptop, tablet, or mobile phone. Telco carriers are working hard to eliminate such areas by installing more macrocell towers. Sometimes installing one of those big bruisers in an area isn’t possible, so the carriers fill in the coverage gaps by scaling down. Scaling down in this case means building smaller wireless installations, such as microcell (also known as metrocell), picocell, and femtocell base stations.
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to realize that deploying such a diverse array of gear can be a nightmare, both in terms of hardware design, embedded software development, and support. Every base station has various wireless formats to manage, and the smaller base stations must also implement certain wired backhaul technologies such as Ethernet and ET/T1 so that they can connect to the carrier’s infrastructure. One way to alleviate this headache of multiple base station designs is to reduce the different types of hardware used. For this scheme to work, however, the signal processing capabilities of a DSP and the networking functions of an application processor must converge into one unified part.
Freescale happens to be well-positioned to provide such a converged solution. First, the company makes its StarCore DSPs, which are 32-bit multicore processors engineered for high data processing throughput and support for a variety of wireless protocols. Second, the company makes high-performance network processors, notably those that comprise its QorIQ Processing Platform. These are 32-bit processors based on a low-power, high-performance Power Architecture core that manages several high-speed communications interfaces. Variants of both the StarCore and Power Architecture families feature fewer cores or lack hardware accelerators, which enable them to hit a specific price point or power consumption target.
Freescale’s convergence strategy is simple in concept, yet presented an engineering challenge. First, you take the core subsystems of these two processors and place them on a single chip. Next, surround the cores with a bevy of enhanced communications interfaces. Finally, knit all of these elements together with a high-speed switching fabric. The result is the QorIQ Qonverge processor, a system that is essentially a base station on a chip. Let’s delve deeper into the microarchitecture of the QorIQ Qonverge and see how it offers a comprehensive solution.
A Tale of Two Processors
Figure: Block diagram of the QorIQ Qonverge PSC9131E processor.
The StarCore subsystem consists of an SC3850 DSP core that has six execution units (four data ALUs, and two address units) that operate in parallel to retire six instructions simultaneously per clock. The ALUs support integer and fractional arithmetic, including multiply-accumulate (MAC) and other sophisticated instructions. The core is therefore capable of reading, processing, and writing a continuous stream of data. The subsystem has its own internal L1/L2 caches, an MMU, an interrupt controller, and timers.
The Power Architecture subsystem consists of an e500 core, which is a superscalar processor with multiple execution units that can issue and retire two instructions per clock cycle. It has its own internal L1/L2 caches, an interrupt controller, and timers.
Each core has separate 32 KB instruction and data caches to reduce latency and boost throughput. The Harvard architecture implementation of these caches requires more transistors, but it helps to ensure that the cores receive a continuous stream of data and instructions. The unified L2 caches can be configured so that a portion of them acts as a low-latency L2 memory for time-critical data or variable storage.
Both subsystems would grind to a halt if they could not access memory or peripheral devices rapidly. To minimize this bottleneck, a high-performance communications interface, known as the Chip-Level Arbitration and Switching System (CLASS) fabric was used. This high-bandwidth, low-latency switching fabric is a fully-pipelined, device interconnect that provides direct access to the resources of the subsystems and on-chip peripherals.
The DMA engine, which can be programmed by either core, uses the CLASS fabric to manage data transfers. It has four bidirectional channels. Off-chip memory is accessed through a DDR memory controller. The controller supports DDR3/DDR3L devices, and can manage a 32-bit interface at a maximum 800 MHz data rate.
Hardware Gives a Hand
As you can see, the QorIQ Qonverge processor is one busy piece of silicon. Among its many duties is to process various wireless formats and encrypt communications sessions. These wireless and encryption algorithms are complex and require substantial processing power. While they can be done in software, the QorIQ Qonverge processor has dedicated execution units that can off-load the computational demands of these algorithms from the core subsystems.
The Multi Accelerator Platform Engine for Femto BaseStation Baseband Processing (MAPLE-B2F) unit provides hardware acceleration for baseband algorithms such as channel decoding/encoding, UTMS chip rate processing, and LTE uplink/downlink processing. It also accelerates the computation of Fourier transforms, matrix inversions, CRC algorithms, convolution and filtering operations, Turbo encoding/decoding, and Viterbi decoding. It is a second-generation design that builds upon an established predecessor used in certain StarCore DSPs.
For encryption duties there is the security engine, a cryptographic and assurance acceleration unit. It uses a job queue interface that can schedule multiple cryptographic tasks in parallel, and its multiple accelerators can be shared among different applications. In concert with the DMA engine, this module can use scatter/gather operations to collect data that is distributed throughout memory. The module has hardware accelerators for public key, message digest, ARC four, SNOW 3G f8 and f9, and Katsumi cryptographic operations. It also has accelerators that manage DES, AES, and CRC operations, and it supports a variety of cryptographic authentication schemes.
Note that acceleration capabilities are not limited exclusively to these particular modules. Other modules can accelerate a subset of their functions. For example, the Ethernet controller can off-load and accelerate certain TCP/IP stack operations such as IP header recognition and checksum, plus TCP/UDP checksum and verification.
The PSC9131E has several controllers that manage complex I/O operations concurrently. The Antenna Interface Controller (AIC), as its name implies, handles transactions between the processor and an external Radio Frequency (RF) subsystem. It supports CDMA, WCDMA-DD, LTE-FDD, LTE-TDD, and GSM (receive only) network modes. Data received from the transceiver is reformatted and stored by the AIC into system memory or in the MAPLE-B2F unit. Data to be transmitted is transferred by DMA to the AIC where it frames the data for the proper network format and sends it to the transceiver. The AIC can handle up to a maximum of four data lanes, depending upon the wireless format in use.
The Ethernet controller features two enhanced Gigabit Ethernet interfaces that can operate at speeds of 10 Mbps, 100 Mbps and 1 Gbps. These interfaces are IEEE 802.3, 802.3u, 820.3x, 802.3z, 802.3ac, and 802.3ab compliant. As mentioned previously, the controller can accelerate the identification and retrieval of standard and non-standard protocols present on the Ethernet connection.
The USB controller is USB revision 2.0 compliant and can function as both a host and a device controller. As a host, it supports low-, full-, and high-speed transfer rates. It contains its own DMA engine that reduces the interrupt load on the processor and minimizes the bus bandwidth necessary to service any USB transactions.
In summary, these several controllers provide sophisticated wireless, Ethernet, and USB services, yet without adding a considerable burden to the processor’s operation, especially when it is conducting network/wireless routing.
The PSC9131E provides a number of ports that enable you to connect a large cast of supporting peripherals to the processor. These are:
- Enhanced SPI
- Two DUARTs
- Integrated Flash memory Controller (IFC)
- Two I2C controllers
- General-Purpose I/O (GPIO) interface with 32 bidirectional ports
- Universal Subscriber Identity Module (USIM) interface for communicating with a SIM card
- PWM optimized to generate sound
- Enhanced Secured Digital Host Controller (eSDHC) for interfacing to SD/SDIO/MMC cards
As a unit, QorIQ Qonverge processors represent a fusion of many existing, field-proven Freescale technologies. However, the resulting processor is far greater than the sum of its parts. Since the QorIQ Qonverge processor implements the level-1, -2, and -3 processing layers required for network/wireless communications on-chip, it only lacks some external hardware, such as a power supply, flash memory, DRAM, Ethernet line-driver and a RF transceiver to implement a stand-alone femtocell or picocell base station. It is designed to replace both the DSP and the applications processors at the heart of many such base station designs, as shown in Figure 2. By doing so, the QorIQ Qonverge part can reduce complexity, processing latencies, and the bill of materials for a base station design.
Figure 2. The QorIQ Qonverge-based picocell design (bottom) uses fewer parts than a design based on separate DSP and application processors (top).
A Processor for Many Uses
The QorIQ Qonverge processor isn’t limited to short-range base stations, however. It can also scale up: Multicore variants can support microcell and macrocell base station designs. This allows you to assemble a range of base station designs around one part.
Besides simplifying the base station design, the QorIQ Qonverge processor also allows you to reuse existing software. For example, existing StarCore MSC8156 DSP code and P2020 application code can be migrated to the QorIQ Qonverge processor, since the cores are nearly identical. The same CodeWarrior tool suite for StarCore DSPs and CodeWarrior tools for Power Architecture can be used to write and debug the software. Furthermore, the code written for–say, a picocell base station–can be reused in microcell and macrocell base station designs. Revising the code for a multicore processor can be tricky, but you can start the process with the knowledge that the application code was stress-tested on smaller base stations. Also, Freescale’s partner, CriticalBlue, has a multicore simulation tool to assist you in this process for Power Architecture-based software. All of this adds up to be a comprehensive solution for embedded base station designs.
Turn the lightRadio on [March 8, 2011]
Development hopes to double network capacity while halving power consumption. By Roy Rubenstein.
Mobile operators face significant challenges, given the rapid growth in mobile broadband traffic. They are starting to roll out the latest mobile technology, Long Term Evolution (LTE), as yet another overlay alongside the existing wideband CDMA and GSM networks. Mobile sites are thus being crammed with antennas and basestation equipment.
“The cellular network is 30 years old,” said Tom Gruba, marketing director for wireless activities at Alcatel-Lucent. “You cannot just keep adding more basestations in the network to solve the [data] capacity problem; the business model doesn’t work.” Alcatel-Lucent’s solution is lightRadio, which moves the processing power to the antenna or into the network, like cloud computing. The system vendor points out that architecture change is being industry led; what Alcatel-Lucent is claiming is that the lightRadio portfolio of products is the first to support the new architecture.
Announced in the run up to Mobile World Congress 2011, lightRadio promises to double network capacity, while halving power consumption. The lightRadio products include a wideband active array antenna that integrates the amplifier and antenna elements, a radio SoC developed with Freescale, and a multimode radio controller platform being developed with HP. Integrating the amplifier alongside the antenna achieves better coupling of the signal to the antenna. Less power is wasted, such that a smaller amplifier can be used.
The wideband active array antenna is implemented as a 6cm cube, pictured left. The wideband operation covers 400 to 4000MHz, allowing one cube to support 700MHz and 2600MHz bands. “These can be stacked, depending on how much power is needed, and you can have two or three columns to serve two or three frequencies and any technologies you want,” said Gruba.
Being an active design, the antenna boosts cell capacity through beam forming and multiple input, multiple output (MIMO) technology. Combining the amplifier-antenna with the radio chip forms a compact basestation that can be mounted on masts or within buildings. Such a combined baseband/remote radio head takes little space and avoids the need for air conditioned cooling associated with traditional basestations.
LightRadio will also enable a cloud computing style radio network architecture, where the basestation is separated from the antenna-amplifier. Traditionally, the radio amplifier was connected to the baseband via a backplane. The advent of the remote radio head led to the creation of the common public radio interface (CPRI) to connect the amplifier at the antenna with the baseband unit. With a cloud based radio network, basestations from 25 or 30 cell sites could be placed in a facility up to 40km away, with the CPRI signal carried over an optical link.
Alcatel-Lucent estimates the maximum lightRadio bit stream needed to be carried over the CPRI link is 10Gbit/s. Compression technology will reduce this by a factor of three, so operators can avoid installing a dedicated 10Gbit optical link. At the core of the baseband processing is the SoC developed with Freescale.
“Dimensioning the various aspects of the SoC is critical,” said Preet Virk, Freescale’s director, networking segment. The SoC design uses Freescale’s recently announced QorIQ Qonverge technology that supports designs spanning femtocells to macro basestations. Two devices have been announced – for femtocells and picocells – that are implemented using a 45nm cmos process. Alcatel-Lucent’s radio ic will be implemented in 28nm cmos and will be available from 2012.
Freescale is not willing to detail the basestation SoC yet, but the scalable design uses cores and IP blocks that are shipping in Freescale products, such as the e500 Power Architecture core and the StarCore SC3850 dsp as well as baseband acceleration blocks.
“Scalability comes in many forms,” said Barry Stern, Freescale’s baseband DSP & SoC products, marketing manager, wireless access division, networking and multimedia group. “From a few users to hundreds of users; from 1.25 to 20MHz bandwidths and beyond; simultaneous multimode support; and enabling OEMs to use the same software across different basestation designs, saving on development costs.”
Freescale’s femtocell SoC supports 8 to 16 users and uses an e500 core and a dsp core. The picocell SoC supports 32 to 64 users and uses two e500s and two dsp cores. Freescale’s metro and macro cell SoCs will support hundreds of users, requiring multiple dsp and cpu cores. Other features will include several DDR3 memory controllers; baseband acceleration for turbo coding, fast Fourier transforms and MIMO; and interfaces for Ethernet, PCI Express and CPRI, according to Virk.
“The SoC in the cloud is going to give us the ability to do all sorts of new things,” said Tod Sizer, head of Alcatel-Lucent’s Bell Labs’ wireless research domain.
Having baseband processors concentrated at one location enables intercell communication. One application is Coordinated Multipoint (CoMP), what Alcatel-Lucent calls networked MIMO, which will be a feature of the 3rd Generation Partnership Project’s (3GPP) Release 10 cellular standard.
Currently, only one cell serves a user, even if the user is commonly near the cell edge and is sensed by adjacent cells. With CoMP, MIMO technology can be used such that different streams are transmitted between the basestations and the user, boosting throughput. And it is this technique, says Alcatel-Lucent, which will double overall capacity.
The cloud like architecture will also enable new uses that benefit energy consumption. “One we are going to see in the coming years is coordination on the basis of energy usage,” said Sizer, citing how, for example, all users could be moved to the 3G network, with the LTE basestations turned off to save power, based on time of day and subscriber requirements. “You have that capability of moving users if you have control of both technologies from a single cloud,” said Sizer.
Power consumption has become a key issue for operators, with the likes of France Telecom looking to reduce the energy consumption in its network by 15% by 2020. In turn, US operator Verizon stipulates that each new piece of equipment must be at least 20% more energy efficient than its predecessor if it is to be deployed. Alcatel-Lucent is developing a virtualised radio controller architecture as part of the portfolio, working with HP to consolidate three generations of radio controllers into one platform. In GSM, the basestation controller (BSC) connects to multiple cell sites, while a radio network controller (RNC) is used in 3G.
“If I make the BSC or RNC a software routine, the software becomes independent of the platform and I can put both functions in one box,” said Gruba. Alcatel Lucent is basing the design on an ATCA version 2 based general purpose processor design, while HP is providing server and virtualisation expertise to the controller design. Alcatel-Lucent expects to be trialling the wideband active array antenna in the autumn before it becomes commercially available in 2012.
The remaining lightRadio elements will appear from 2012 onwards. Ken Rehbehn, principal analyst at the Yankee Group, says lightRadio is arguably the most important wireless equipment development made by Alcatel-Lucent since its 2006 merger. However, he points out that other vendors are pursuing comparable strategies that might challenge much of the lightRadio vision.
Even when they’re disguised like fake trees or church steeples, cell towers are ugly. Most have a hut at the bottom, stuffed with baseband processing gear that does the hard work of creating and decoding, say, an LTE signal. These huts often contain signal amplifiers, big units that push power up the tower to the actual antennas—and half the signal is lost just moving through the tower’s wiring. At the top, rectangular antennas bristle from the tower. One set might be for 2G support, one for 3G, and another for 4G.
Alcatel-Lucent, one of the world’s biggest wireless gear makers, turned to its Bell Labs research division to rethink this aging architecture. First step: apply the “data center” model of centralization to baseband processing and consolidate all that rack-mounted hardware into a few locations per city, each connected to the towers it serves by fiber optic cable.
Right now, a cell tower fault might require a truck roll and a drive through traffic. When the tech gets to the tower site, it might turn out to be at the top of a hotel, and permission to access it must be obtained from the site manager. Put all the processing gear in a single remote location, however, and repairs to it get cheaper and faster.
Clustering the baseband units also makes it easier to do load balancing across a region. When commuters are driving into work, for instance, the baseband cluster can turn its combined energy to handling the signal load coming from towers along the highways and train lines. During the day, processing could handle heavy downtown traffic, while it shifts focus to the suburbs in the evening. Such load-balancing doesn’t produce any additional spectrum or data throughput, but it does mean that a carrier can operate fewer baseband processors, saving the carrier cash.
The third advantage to centralizing the baseband processors is that the interconnection fabric between them can operate at high speeds, fast enough to support a standard called CoMP, or Co-ordinated Multipoint. CoMP, which is currently moving through standardization, relies on the fact that, in many locations, a user’s wireless gadget is in range of multiple towers (the closer one comes to the edge of each cell, the more towers can typically see the device).
This is usually a waste, since multiple towers spend bandwidth contacting the gadget but can’t independently deliver different data. CoMP turns it into a bonus by dividing up requested download data and using all cells in the area to deliver a different slice of it at once—akin to the way BitTorrent operates. The phone then combines the data from all the towers in the proper order. This additive approach to using different towers means that a user’s total throughput can go up substantially, but it requires centralized baseband to function.
Finally, the new lightRadio baseband bear can do software-defined protocols. Upgrading to LTE? Just upgrade the software on the baseband processor. (Traditional rack-mounted baseband processors required dedicated units for each protocol.) A new baseband chip from Freescale makes it possible, but it gets even cooler when used in conjunction with the new wideband antennas.
LightRadio uses a new antenna that, in Alcatel-Lucent’s words, collapses three radios into one. The radios are tiny cubes of 2.5 inches square, and each can operate between 1.8GHz and 2.6GHz. They use tiny amps that can be located atop the tower, built into the antenna enclosure, which keeps the amp size down and dramatically cuts down on the power loss.
These radio cubes are stacked in groups of 8 to 10 in order to make an antenna element, and when one cube in the array goes down, the others remain unaffected. (In a traditional system, the whole antenna unit would fail.) The amps cover enough different frequencies that, in many cases, simply changing the software configuration on the baseband unit can control whether each antenna offers a 2G, 3G, or 4G signal.
The antennas also do “beam forming”—fine-grained directional control over the radio signal—in both the horizontal and vertical dimension to better connect with local wireless devices. Alcatel-Lucent claims capacity improvements of 30 percent through the use of vertical beam-forming alone.
The end result of the system: lightRadio cell towers don’t need huts, they don’t need air conditioners and heaters, big amps, fans, or even local processing gear. Baseband processing moves closer to the data center model and gets cool new capabilities like CoMP and load-balancing. The system’s cost savings come from power (Alcatel-Lucent claims a 50 percent reduction), along with lower construction and site rental fees. The total macro capacity of the system should double while cutting operator costs dramatically.
Though it will take months for any carrier to roll out this or similar gear, advances like lightRadio are crucial as wireless usage continues to soar and smartphones break out of the enterprise and the technorati and into the mainstream. And by making cell infrastructure smaller, cheaper, and less power-hungry, this sort of gear brings wireless networking into reach of more people, especially in rural areas and developing countries.
Alcatel-Lucent (Euronext Paris and NYSE: ALU) today announced that its lightRadio portfolio was recognized as the outstanding new achievement in broadband Internet communications by the leading industry magazine NGN, as part of its NGN Leadership Awards contest. The awards program recognizes outstanding products, services and technologies relating to next generation networks.
“This award underlines the sweeping impact our lightRadio portfolio is having on the wireless communications industry,” said Wim Sweldens, President of Alcatel-Lucent’s Wireless activities. “lightRadio isn’t just redefining the shape of the wireless base station, it also offers a compelling vision for what wireless networks will look like in the future.”
“This award for Alcatel-Lucent’s LightRadio is a great testament to their innovation. They have brought to market a solution designed to solve the most critical issues facing the wireless industry, starting with the quasi impossibility to add new sites to increase capacity and improve coverage,” said Stéphane Téral, Principal Analyst, Mobile and FMC Infrastructure, Infonetics.
lightRadio™ is a new product offering from Alcatel-Lucent that will dramatically reduce operating costs, technical complexity and power consumption in mobile broadband networks. Designed to meet the long-term needs of mobile operators seeking to ensure their networks can handle increasing traffic loads, lightRadio radically shrinks and simplifies today’s base stations.
The lightRadio portfolio is designed to increase network capacity while simultaneously reducing the cost of delivery, on a per bit basis. The overarching goal is to give operators more options and a flexible path forward for the next decade. By increasing the capacity at a reduced cost the operators can pursue a whole new market segment, the mass market. In addition, being able to use the lightRadio cube technology in various forms means Small Cells can leverage the technology and rural villages can get wireless coverage at lower costs helping to cross the digital divide.
lightRadio promises greener, simpler, lighter networks, and the benefits are substantial, including:
- 50% reduction in total cost-per-bit as compared to 3G when adding a comparable amount of capacity
- 50% reduction in energy consumption when compared to conventional ground based solutions
- Small and easily deployable – can be deployed anywhere there is a power source and broadband connection and deals with less zoning restrictions
- Nearly invisible – the WB-AAA is two products in one. It’s adding another radio in the same size form factor with no additional lease cost or further pollution of the urban skyline.
The Alcatel-Lucent “lightRadio” product family is composed of the Wideband Active Array Antenna, the Multiband Remote Radio Head, the “lightRadio” Baseband Processing, the “lightRadio” Control, and the 5620 SAM common management. The Wideband Active Array Antenna will be trialed later this year and have broad product availability in 2012. For more information on the lightRadio portfolio please click here.
Bell Labs lightRadio™ Breakthroughs [Feb 7, 2011]
The world of mobile communications moves fast. With new mobile devices, new applications and ever-growing and changing consumer demands the wireless networks in use today have to evolve. Rather than take an incremental approach to meet these challenges, Bell Labs took a leap and developed a radically new approach to wireless technology. In order to do this, Tod Sizer, head of Bell Labs Wireless Research, challenged his team to think not just “outside the box,” but to think “inside the cube.” In six short months, the team developed a cube-shaped antenna that would fit in the palm of a hand– and was ready to test it with customers.Tod Sizer, Head of Wireless Research for Alcatel-Lucent Bell Labs, talks about developing the lightRadio antenna module. 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.
“There are many different types and sizes of base stations, from very small to very large, depending on where they are located, such as in an urban or rural area,” explained Sizer. “I realized that we needed to design a new and flexible type of antenna array for different environments– including one designed to the smallest possible size – ‘invisible antennas’ – in order to be flexible enough to meet the growing needs of all of our wireless service provider customers.”
A radio antenna element is a component of an antenna system that transmits signals from the wireless base station to a wireless end-user using a mobile phone, smart device or laptop. By reducing the size of the element itself, an antenna array can be scaled to fit any wireless need simply by adding more of these elements to the array.
Bell Labs wireless researchers weren’t daunted by the challenge of building something that was roughly ten percent of its current size. Several wireless research teams in Stuttgart and Ireland focused on different aspects of the problem, combining their unique areas of expertise to quickly resolve a myriad of technical challenges to reduce the antenna element’s size, improve energy efficiency and lower manufacturing expenses. The clever architecture of this new antenna is but one of the innovations critical to realizing Alcatel-Lucent’s unique lightRadio portfolio.
“We believe this unique antenna – as part of the lightRadio solution – will have a significant impact in the wireless space,” concluded Sizer.
Wim Sweldens, President, Alcatel-Lucent wireless activities, talks about lightRadio™, a new system that signals the end of the mobile industry’s reliance on masts and base stations around the world. 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. More info: http://www.alcatel-lucent.com/lightradio
Alcatel-Lucent. Cube light Radio [Feb 18, 2011]
Highlights of lightRadio press conference [London, Feb. 7th, 2011]
Presentation of the lightRadio system which 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. Conference guests: Stephen Carter, Wim Sweldens, Tod Sizer and Javier Garcia Gomez (Alcatel-Lucent), Lisa Su (Freescale) and Joe Weinman (HP).