Alcatel Lucent reveals new antenna technology

Antenna rethink could drive cellular network into the cloud

Alcatel Lucent has revealed an antenna technology that could enable some base-station functions to move into the cloud.

The company says this could halve the cost of owning and operating a mobile network, and halve its carbon footprint. Broadband connections could also be delivered more cheaply to under-served populations.

“Over the next three years we expect the demand for mobile data to grow 30-fold,” said Wim Sweldens, head of Alcatel Lucent's mobile division. Incremental change in the way networks are organised cannot meet such rising demand.

The company's research arm, Bell Labs, has developed an answer, which it has dubbed the Light Radio cube. The 60mm cube integrates a 2.6GHz antenna, a broadband RF power amplifier, filtering and analogue to digital conversion circuitry on three stacked circuit boards. A connection on the base mounts it to a PCB that can carry a single-chip baseband processor from Freescale.

The “fundamental breakthrough”, as Sweldens put it, is that the same cube can be used to build anything from a femtocell for home use to a macrocell for a busy city centre. “You do not scale a cell by building a bigger version of it you just use more of the cubes,” he said.

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