Lucent Unveils Mini 3G Router
Lucent, traditionally very strong in the CDMA wireless equipment market, has been trying for years to break into a market dominated for years by Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) and Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK). But while it scored a high-profile deal with Cingular Wireless , the company has struggled to make an impact with mobile operators shifting from GSM networks to 3G. (See Lucent, Cingular Prep HSDPA and Lucent Sticking With UMTS.)
Its latest gambit is to offer a single IP-based product combining multiple functions that carriers rolling out next-generation 3G networks using HSDPA (high speed downlink packet access) technology can use to fill gaps in their networks without having to deploy numerous separate network elements.
The Base Station Router (BSR), developed at the vendor's Bell Labs, will be commercially available by the end of the year, said Mike Iandolo, the vendor's president of mobility access solutions, at an analyst briefing here this morning. The device is in lab trials with Telefónica O2 Germany GmbH & Co. OHG , now part of Telefónica SA (NYSE: TEF). (See Telefónica Swoops In on O2.)
According to Lucent, the BSR combines multiple edge elements into a single box: An IP router, which Lucent CTO Paul Mankiewich says is Lucent's own, and not a partner's technology; a wireless base station; a radio network controller; and some GGSN (GPRS gateway service node) functionality, which traditionally connects a wireless network with an IP network.
Iandolo and his colleagues say the product's initial form is designed specifically to act as a smaller, localized mobile data base station, or a "micro cell," that can handle IP traffic and hand off TDM voice calls to the nearest voice base station. Lucent believes there's a gap in the market and is developing the BSR to provide HSDPA access in high-traffic areas where operators might experience capacity constraints, such as in-building coverage.
"We regard the BSR as a disruptive technology that will help Lucent break into new mobile accounts," said Cindy Christy, president of Lucent's network solutions group.
The idea is that by combining multiple elements into a single product, the BSR will be relatively easy to integrate into an existing network, cutting down on operating expenditure in terms of element management and improving the flow of IP traffic between disparate elements.
Later versions of the BSR will be designed for macro wireless cells and incorporate TDM voice management, says Mankiewich.
So, does Lucent have a chance of making inroads with such a product? Potentially yes, says Patrick Donegan, senior analyst and wireless infrastructure specialist at Heavy Reading. He says the mobile operators need to address such coverage holes if they're to contend with wirelesss LAN in-building coverage, and that the only other product that collapses multiple functions into a single product in the same way is the recently launched AXPT by Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT). (See Motorola Takes 3G Indoors.)
"It's unsurprising that Lucent and Motorola are the first ones out of the traps in this sector, as they both need to show a leading edge in something to gain some market share," says Donegan.
Lucent also today announced it is integrating technology from VOIP systems vendor Ubiquity Software Corp. (London: UBQ) into its IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) systems portfolio, and said it had won new deals with T-Mobile International AG and the European Commission. (See Lucent Integrates Ubiquity Tech.)
— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading