Sprint to use lightRadio for LTE
Alcatel-Lucent gains first US deal for its small cell architecture as part of the carrier's Network Vision program
Published: 6 August, 2012
Alcatel-Lucent has gained huge profile for its radical lightRadio architecture, and some well publicized trials and demonstrations, but now it has a the first commercial order on which it can go public, from Sprint.
Mobile operators are starting to announce real world deployment plans for LTE small cells, after a year of testing and discussing the concept, which will lead to a new way of building dense data networks around layers of tiny base stations. The Korean duo, SKT and KT, recently discussed their roadmaps and now Sprint says it will deploy lightRadio metrocells to "augment coverage" in the 4G network it is just starting to roll out.
Initially, these small base stations will be used indoors, though for public access, in high traffic venues such as stadiums (Sprint has been an early and enthusiastic users of indoor, private femtocells, which have set many of the antecedents for the metrocell). Later the cells are expected to move outdoors to create hotzones of capacity in areas where the macro network is struggling to cope with user demand.
ALU says it has 39 commercial deals for small cells. Operators which have trialled or indicated support include Telefonica, China Mobile and Etisalat.
The ALU flagship product can support combinations of 2G, 3G, LTE and Wi-Fi, but "this particular contract is specific to the LTE network", said a spokesperson. The vendor is already one of three suppliers, along with Ericsson and Samsung, of Sprint's Network Vision infrastructure, which will support multiple networks and frequencies including the new LTE roll-out. But this is its first US deal for lightRadio and the financial terms are expected to be additional to the contract on network modernization.
It is also unclear whether lightRadio will be deployed only where ALU is supplying macro gear. Its Network Vision contract covers deployments and upgrades in and around many large cities, notably New York City, Philadelphia, Boston, Washington DC, Baltimore and Los Angeles.
"We will be able to increase our coverage and capacity where it's needed," said Sprint's head of networks, Bob Azzi, in a statement.