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

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