AlcaLu Softens Up in the RAN

Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) polished up its software-defined radio (SDR) capabilities with the launch of a new radio module that will let operators run 2G, 3G, and proto-4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) mobile access technologies at the same time and on the same base station infrastructure.

With this module, the MC-TRX, AlcaLu is targeting operators that are looking to deploy 3G UMTS in the re-farmed 900MHz frequency band, which up until recently has only been open to GSM services. As more regulators worldwide allow UMTS services to ride over the 900MHz band, some operators have started using the spectrum for 3G services, dubbed UMTS900; examples include Elisa Corp. in Finland. (See Elisa Launches 900MHz 3G and Down on the (Re)Farm.)

But the module is not limited to re-farming applications. The product can also be used to increase GSM network capacity. And eventually, the 900MHz band, as well as the 1,800MHz GSM band, could also be used for LTE services. "That's the importance of a solution that can support GSM and LTE at the same time," says Andre Mechaly, VP of wireless networks strategy at Alcatel-Lucent.

For example, Bouygues Telecom is using the 1,800MHz band for its LTE trial in France. (See AlcaLu Lands LTE Gig.)

AlcaLu's move also fits the trend -- in which SDR plays a big role -- of radio access network equipment supporting multiple technologies and multiple bands. (See Multi-Standard Radio Systems and AlcaLu Converges in RAN.)

"This aligns with the requirement for integrated 2G, 3G, and LTE radio access networks from a large segment of the operator base," says Gabriel Brown, senior analyst at Heavy Reading.

"Carriers are extremely keen to extend the lifespan of their equipment," adds Brown. "In the past, operators could accept, or were resigned to, radio access equipment lasting for six or seven years, but now they are asking for a minimum of 10 years to allow more time to generate return on capital."

AlcaLu isn't the only vendor to sport SDR capabilities. At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last year, ZTE Corp. (Shenzhen: 000063; Hong Kong: 0763) scored something of a coup at Hong Kong CSL Ltd. with a deal to supply an HSPA+ network that can migrate to LTE, which the operator said was won largely on the vendor's SDR technology. And Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. has been working on SDR with Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD). (See MWC 2009: SDR Coup for ZTE, Huawei, VOD Go Soft in the RAN, and Huawei Joins SDR Forum.)

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Unstrung

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