Etisalat signs up to support ALU's LightRadio
Middle Eastern cellco joins China Mobile in favoring the deconstructed approach to base stations
Published: 18 October, 2011
Alcatel-Lucent made a splash when it announced its lightRadio architecture earlier this year, calling the death of the conventional base station with an approach which centralizes baseband processing in the cloud, leaving lightweight radio/antenna units at the cell sites. China Mobile was the first carrier to show public interest, as part of its Cloud RAN strategy, but now it has been joined by Middle Eastern major Etisalat.
The UAE-based cellco has signed an agreement with ALU to build its next generation network around lightRadio, claiming this will be the most efficient, cost-effective and eco-friendly way to move towards mobile broadband. By being such an early adopter, Etisalat insiders said they expect to have significant influence over the roadmap for lightRadio and to set the blueprint for much of the Middle East, which is moving towards LTE far more rapidly than it migrated to 3G. The operator's deployments may go further than its home territory though, as it has an expanding presence in emerging markets such as India and Egypt.
Nasser bin Obood, acting CEO at the carrier, said in a statement: "Etisalat is a pioneer in delivering innovative services and applications to our customers to meet their needs in both their social and work lives. This agreement will allow us to shape the future of mobile networks and define how lightRadio can be best implemented to satisfy our customers growing demands. Etisalat is proud to be the only operator in the Middle East and Africa to join this pioneering program."
LightRadio's deconstructed base station principles are seen in other vendors' developments, for instance in Nokia Siemens' Liquid Radio and Intel's C-RAN. The architecture is well suited to supporting the mounting trend for small cells, and the first commercial LightRadio base station will be in this class, although macro sizes will follow too. However, because the baseband processing is virtualized in a remote location, fiber connectivity is virtually essential.