MWC 2011: The End of the RAN as We Know It?
The cloud, distributed radio access networks (RANs), antenna integrated radio (AIR), lightRadio, Heterogeneous Network (HetNet) and small cells -- these are just some of the mobile infrastructure buzzwords that will be pinging through the halls of the Fira this week at Mobile World Congress 2011. And they are some of the technologies that could one day transform the mobile broadband access network as the industry knows it today.
Before the mobile industry's great and good descended upon Barcelona, several major vendor announcements showed that radical change is in the air.
First, Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) unveiled its lightRadio vision that entails replacing the monster base stations of today with 5-centimeter cubes that house both antenna and software-defined radio (SDR) technology. In addition, the company has enlisted Freescale to develop a complete baseband processing system-on-chip (SoC). (See AlcaLu: We're Killing the Base Station , The Lowdown on lightRadio and AlcaLu Unveils lightRadio.)
Next up, Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) took the wraps off its antenna integrated radio (AIR) product that integrates the antenna and radio unit of a base station into a compact piece of kit, which the vendor claims will reduce deployment times and operational costs of installing cell sites for operators because it cuts power consumption and installation times. (See Ericsson's Small Cells Come Up for AIR.)
Beyond these developments from suppliers, SK Telecom (Nasdaq: SKM) revealed that it is working on adopting what it calls a "Smart Cloud Access Network" (SCAN) for its Long Term Evolution (LTE) network. The operator describes this architecture as a cloud-based network that centers on the deployment of remote radio heads and antennas separately from the rest of the traditional elements of a base station. The operator has selected Samsung Corp. , LG Electronics Inc. (London: LGLD; Korea: 6657.KS) and Nokia Networks as its equipment suppliers for its LTE network. (See SKT Unveils LTE Plans, SK Telecom Picks LTE Vendors and NSN Wins LTE Deal at SK Telecom .)
And let us not forget the HetNet and femtocells, which stand to play a role in shaping future RAN design as the movement for smaller, flexible, distributed and efficient equipment gathers pace. (See Get Hip to the HetNet.)
So the lingering question about all these technology developments is, what's an operator to do? And, are these developments coming from vendor push or operator pull? Light Reading Mobile is here at Mobile World Congress 2011 and we aim to find out.
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— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Light Reading Mobile