The Shape of Networks to Come?

4:45 PM -- There's an interesting blog out from CommScope Inc. about using active antennas in a new 700MHz Long Term Evolution (LTE) trial in the U.S. that might give some pointers to future 4G network design.

Our sister publication, EE Times, reports that the active antenna trial indicates that the technology can increase cell capacity by up to 40 percent. Active antennas use electrical elements in their design, allowing them to be smaller and more distributed than traditional passive units.

The blog reminded me of a comment that AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) CTO John Donovan made, at the operator's recent developer's summit in Vegas, about upgrading to HSPA+ and LTE. "We placed the active radio elements close to the antenna on most sites," he said of the upgrades.

I'm not suggesting that AT&T is carrying out this trial per se. I contacted CommScope to check, and they're under NDA naturally. But it could just as easily be Verizon Wireless 's 700MHz LTE test.

That's not really the point here. What I'm getting at is that we're starting to see these smaller active antennas become more widely used as operators seek to crank speed and capacity.

It makes me wonder whether the massive cell site festooned with huge antennas might eventually become a thing of the past. What say you?

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile

millomar 12/5/2012 | 5:44:42 PM
re: The Shape of Networks to Come?

I have seen the Ubidyne device at a couple of tradeshows.  From the outside they look like a conventional passive antenna.  About the same size.  But inside the enclosure they have impressive electronics rather than air.

The size of and antenna enclosure is determined, mostly, by the size of the antenna elements.   Those are determined by the band.  So a 700Mhz antenna is always going to be VERY much larger than a 2.1 Ghz device.  It will also have a great deal more room for Ubidyne's stuff.

Which means your dream of disappearing tower clutter won't be coming true any time soon.

The massive increase in cell capacity is the real selling point.  That's a lot of pick up.  It will mean fewer sites for the same throughput.  So there should be fewer sites even if they remain ugly.  But you don't notice things that never happen quite as much as those that do!

Gabriel Brown 12/5/2012 | 5:44:41 PM
re: The Shape of Networks to Come?

Hi millomar -- Agreed that AAS is the next big RAN innovation. A mixture of active and passive elements in one "package" seems most lilkey.

Ubidyne is a pioneer. I need an update, but my understanding is that it has focused on becoming a best-in-class sub-system supplier to larger AAS vendors.

Gabriel Brown 12/5/2012 | 5:44:40 PM
re: The Shape of Networks to Come?

you work for them?

millomar 12/5/2012 | 5:44:40 PM
re: The Shape of Networks to Come?

No but they are a customer.

millomar 12/5/2012 | 5:44:40 PM
re: The Shape of Networks to Come?

No doubt you will visit them at MWC in Barcelona at 2C98.  I am sure that they will have a good story to tell.

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