Ericsson: Coming Up for AIR in 2012

CHICAGO -- 4G World 2011 -- Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) is expecting that its new, small AIR network products will start to arrive with operators in Europe and the U.S. from the first quarter next year.

Soren Elsborg, head of mobile broadband for the Swedish company, said that he expects the AIR products to arrive with major European operators first with the U.S. to follow soon after.

"The first market for us with AIR is really in Europe, and that'll be in the first or second quarter," Elsborg elucidates.

He explains that Ericsson is currently talking to "all the big guys" in the U.S. now, too. "I'm quite convinced you'll see it in the U.S. by Q3," the BB chief tells Light Reading Mobile.

The antenna integrated radio (AIR) combines two radio access network (RAN) elements that are currently separate -– the antenna and the radio unit -- into a single, small network element. "The secret is that the board is integrated with the antenna," Elsborg says. (See Ericsson's Small Cells Come Up for AIR.)

In the real world, he expects to see the radios to initially be deployed in distributed fashion on lamp posts and buildings to improve coverage in European and American cities. "There's a lot of need for that in cities," Elsborg says.

Elsborg rejects the idea of AIR as a pure small cell play, suggesting that the tiny radios are actually "a gap-filler or complement" that sits between larger traditional base stations and self-organizing small-cells.

The current product utilizes a pair of transmitters and a pair of receivers. Elsborg says that the next generation product will increase the number of receiver antennas to four, upping speed and capacity in the box.

Ericsson's AIR is one of a trio of small and distributed RAN products that looks set to help reshape the wireless network of the future. The others are Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU)'s lightRadio and Nokia Networks ' Liquid Radio.

Both Ericsson's AIR and AlcaLu's forthcoming lightRadio small cell are contenders for the best mobile product Leading Light award. All will be revealed on that front on November 8. (See Leading Lights Finalists: Best New Product (Mobile).) — Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile

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