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Ericsson's Small Cells Come Up for AIR

Ray Le Maistre
LR Mobile News Analysis
Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-Chief

The race, it seems, is well and truly on to create the technology that will enable the most efficient, flexible macro wireless communications networks of the future.

Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) has unveiled its antenna integrated radio (AIR), which combines two radio access network (RAN) elements that are currently separate -– the antenna and the radio unit -- into a single, tightly packed network element. (See Ericsson Waves New Antenna.)

The move comes only a day after Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) unveiled its "lightRadio" development that heralds the "death of the traditional base station." (See AlcaLu: We're Killing the Base Station and The Lowdown on lightRadio.)

The Swedish vendor claims the new product, which is being shown off at next week's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona and will be commercially available during the second half of this year, reduces the deployment and operational costs of installing cell sites as it cuts installation times and power consumption.

Jan Häglund, deputy head of the vendor's IP and broadband division, tells Light Reading that AIR, which was developed with antenna partner Kathrein-Werke KG , has gone through "proof of concept" trials in South Africa. He adds that Ericsson is planning to offer AIR in a format that allows network operators to build the combined antenna/radio unit using "Lego-like" building bricks, adding interconnected block-like modules as more capacity is needed in a cell.

That makes AIR, which Ericsson will promote as part of its Heterogeneous Network (HetNet) offering, a prime candidate for small cell deployments.

The converged antenna/radio unit concept isn't new, notes Heavy Reading Senior Analyst Gabriel Brown, as German specialist vendor Ubidyne GmbH has been developing this type of RAN product for some years, and has been working closely with Nokia Networks , Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD) and ZTE Corp. (Shenzhen: 000063; Hong Kong: 0763) on its development. (See Ubidyne Integrates With ZTE and NSN, V'fone Demo Active Antenna.)

Brown also notes that Ericsson's move is related to AlcaLu's lightRadio development. "Alcatel-Lucent has mapped out a longer-term vision that is more ambitious and different in terms of its detail, but the concepts are similar –- fewer components and modules on site, more flexible to deploy, and it's software-defined," enabling the provisioning of multiple standards across multiple frequencies from the same RAN element.

Why this matters
Ericsson is the global mobile network market leader, so pretty much any strategic technology development it unveils is worth looking at. However, this plays right into the heart of what every mobile operator is looking for: a way to build more flexible and cost-efficient networks that can be fine-tuned, in terms of planning and deployment, to meet their growing capacity requirements as mobile data traffic volumes continue to grow.

The timing and nature of this development, though, make it even more interesting.

Ericsson's announcement comes just one day after AlcaLu unveiled its "mobile infrastructure of the future" roadmap, which shows that the major vendors are racing to lay out their next-generation mobile access network visions in front of the world's operators as they consider the migration from 3G to LTE and beyond. It's reasonable to expect further visions from other major vendors in Barcelona next week.

It also, notes Brown, marks Ericsson's renewed engagement with small cell infrastructure. "It's not Ericsson's first foray into small cells, but it certainly gives them more vigor in this area -- this is important because it's the market leader coming back into small cells."

The Heavy Reading man adds: "It's also interesting because it could potentially be deployed with existing networks, as an overlay for operators looking to migrate from 3G to 3G-plus to LTE."

And for the Light Reading team, Ericsson's news is particularly noteworthy as it instantly brings to mind the musical migraine that is Phil Collins's "In the Air Tonight," though at least these days we can at least picture this startling simian interpretation.

For more
Small cells, HetNets and self-organizing network (SON) systems are hot.

You can get all the pre-event news, and coverage from Barcelona once the doors open on Feb. 14, at our special Mobile World Congress Show Site.

— Ray Le Maistre, International Managing Editor, Light Reading

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12/5/2012 | 5:13:22 PM
re: Ericsson's Small Cells Come Up for AIR

<div id="y-article-hd" style="margin-top: 0px; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 0.65em; margin-left: 0px; padding-top: 0.65em; padding-right: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 0px; line-height: 1.22em; zoom: 1;">
<h1 class="test1" style="margin-top: 0px; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 10px; margin-left: 0px; padding-top: 6px; padding-right: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 0px; font-size: 1.82em; font-weight: bold; line-height: 1.22em; color: #000000;">Airspan Introduces Groundbreaking Hybrid RAN Solution</h1>
<h2 style="margin-top: -10px; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: 0px; font-size: 14px; font-weight: normal; line-height: 22px; color: #2f3a3f; border-top-width: initial; border-top-style: none; border-top-color: initial; font-family: arial, sans-serif; padding: 0px;">Allowing Carriers to Reach Rural and Underserved Customers&nbsp;</h2>
<h2 style="margin-top: -10px; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: 0px; font-size: 14px; font-weight: normal; line-height: 22px; color: #2f3a3f; border-top-width: initial; border-top-style: none; border-top-color: initial; font-family: arial, sans-serif; padding: 0px;">Press Release&nbsp;Source: Airspan Networks, Inc.&nbsp;On Wednesday February 9, 2011, 9:00 am EST
<div id="y-article-bd" style="padding-top: 0px; padding-right: 0px; padding-bottom: 28px; padding-left: 0px; line-height: 1.22em; overflow-x: auto; overflow-y: hidden; margin: 0px;">

BOCA RATON, FL--(Marketwire - 02/09/11) - Airspan Networks, Inc., a leading provider of broadband wireless access networks, announced today the launch of AirHarmony, the world's first multi-standard, 2G and 4G outdoor pico radio access network (RAN) solution, designed to allow carriers to serve rural and underserved markets economically. The product is a result of collaboration with ip.access, a pioneering femtocell and picocell manufacturer.

AirHarmony will allow carriers to extend their network services to customers in rural areas previously considered economically unfeasible to reach with conventional macro and micro network solutions.

The new product continues Airspan's history of excellence in innovation, combining Airspan and ip.access industry-leading technology. AirHarmony includes an Airspan 4G base station with self-backhaul capability, ip.access 2G access controllers, and ip.access core 2G software solutions. The software defined radio (SDR) solution incorporates virtually every existing mobile carrier radio interface including:


<ul style="line-height: 1.22em; padding: 0px; margin: 0px;">
<li style="margin-top: 10px; margin-right: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; margin-left: 15px; list-style-type: disc; list-style-position: initial; list-style-image: initial; line-height: 1.22em; padding: 0px;">2G and 2.5G GSM Edge, 2 TRX @ 20W, up to 30 simultaneous calls</li>
<li style="margin-top: 10px; margin-right: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; margin-left: 15px; list-style-type: disc; list-style-position: initial; list-style-image: initial; line-height: 1.22em; padding: 0px;">WiMAX 802.16d and 802.16e</li>
<li style="margin-top: 10px; margin-right: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; margin-left: 15px; list-style-type: disc; list-style-position: initial; list-style-image: initial; line-height: 1.22em; padding: 0px;">LTE release 8.0 and 9.0, both TDD and FDD</li>
<li style="margin-top: 10px; margin-right: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; margin-left: 15px; list-style-type: disc; list-style-position: initial; list-style-image: initial; line-height: 1.22em; padding: 0px;">High capacity point-to-multipoint relay backhaul</li>


A unique feature of the AirHarmony pico base station is its inbuilt backhaul technology that supports low latency, high capacity, non-line-of-sight, point-to-multi-point operation with relay -- named iBridge. This groundbreaking architecture enables carriers to create sustainable service footprints with minimized CAPEX and OPEX profiles. Another key feature is the low power consumption of less than 200W for a sector with two access and one backhaul radio interfaces. In many regions, a base station site can be solar powered.

"A constant challenge for carriers is delivering voice services and high-speed data connectivity in rural areas," said Stephen Mallinson, CEO at ip.access. "Generally, the low population density in these areas does not justify the expense of deploying the infrastructure needed for such coverage. However, AirHarmony now solves this problem, offering carriers a low-cost, high performance picocell with macro range that can service hundreds of square miles."

Paul Senior, Chief Technical Officer of Airspan, added, "Incorporating the ip.access high-power nanoGSM technology in this product enabled us to combine our robust 4G access and backhaul solution with standard carrier interfaces. This product is the first of its kind and will change carrier economics while delivering voice and data services to previously underserved regions."

Lotus Solutions and Services, a division of Asia Consulting Group (ACG), tapped its extensive experience deploying cellular networks in hard-to-reach areas to contribute to the development of the AirHarmony product. A test bed deployment of Lotus GSM is currently underway with a local carrier in south-central Asia.

Airspan's new suite of LTE RAN solutions including AirHarmony will be on display at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, February 14-17 in Hall 1, Booth B56.

About Airspan Networks Inc.

Airspan (Pinksheets:AIRO&nbsp;-&nbsp;News) is a leading 4G wireless solution-provider and the vendor of choice for some of the world's largest broadband wireless deployments. Developing leading-edge technology for broadband access and IP-telephony, Airspan continues to supply customers around the world with best-of-breed solutions. With direct sales offices throughout Asia, EMEA and the Americas, a worldwide network of resellers and agents, and partnership alliances with major OEMs, Airspan has over 100 commercial WiMAX deployments worldwide.&nbsp;www.airspan.com.

About ip.access

Based in Cambridge, UK, ip.access ltd (www.ipaccess.com) is a leading manufacturer of cost-effective picocell and femtocell infrastructure solutions for GSM, GPRS, EDGE and 3G. These solutions bring IP and cellular technologies together to drive down costs and increase coverage and capacity of mobile networks.

ABI Research ranks ip.access as the world's number 1 picocell vendor; its nanoGSM&reg; and nano3G&trade; picocell solutions provide 2G and 3G coverage and capacity for offices, shops and (using satellite backhaul) passenger aircraft, ships and remote rural areas. nanoGSM is the world's most deployed picocell, with live installations in more than 50 networks around the world and growing.

ip.access is also the company behind the multi-award winning Oyster 3G&trade; femtocell technology, which dramatically improves the user experience for 3G services at home. Oyster 3G is the core femtocell technology in AT&amp;T's 3G MicroCell.

ip.access counts Scottish Equity Partners, Rothschild Gestion, Intel Capital, Amadeus Capital Partners, ADC, Cisco, Qualcomm and Motorola Ventures among its shareholders.

About Lotus Solutions and Services

Lotus Solutions and Services, a division of Asia Consulting Group (ACG), delivers a carrier-grade BTS system that enables carriers to profitably extend and expand their networks into hard-to-reach areas without changing existing infrastructures. The Lotus GSM/LTE systems offer lower costs, easy deployment and easy integration with current networks. Lotus was designed based upon ACG's extensive experience deploying cellular networks in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

This press release contains forward-looking statements. All statements, other than statements of historical facts, including statements regarding our strategy, future operations, financial position, future revenues, projected costs, prospects, plans and objectives of management, may be deemed to be forward-looking statements. The words "anticipates," "believes," "estimates," "expects," "intends," "may," "plans," "projects," "will," "would" and similar expressions or negative variations thereof are intended to identify forward-looking statements, although not all forward-looking statements contain these identifying words. We may not actually achieve the plans, intentions or expectations disclosed in our forward-looking statements and you should not place undue reliance on our forward-looking statements. There are a number of important factors that could cause actual results or events to differ materially from the plans, intentions and expectations disclosed in the forward-looking statements we make. Investors and others are therefore cautioned that a variety of factors, including certain risks, may affect our business and cause actual results to differ materially from those set forth in the forward-looking statements. We do not assume any obligation to update any forward-looking statements.


Hassene Akkeri
Hassene Akkeri
12/5/2012 | 5:13:19 PM
re: Ericsson's Small Cells Come Up for AIR

Ericsson's AIR, ALU's Lightradio and who knows what's next. The technology evolution game becomes crazy and doesn't let enough time to operators to make the right decisions at the right time.

Operators who wanted to be pioneers had invested too early in 3G infrastructures that cannot allow them to line up with new bitrate requirements where double-digitted HSPA+ and LTE rule. Should they proceed to swaps and lose what they've invested few years ago?

2009/2010 was marked by the SDR trend labelled with different fancy names "uni-ran", "single-ran" and so on and it was supposed to be a revolutionary approach. What should operators do now? Should they wait for the "light RAN" approach or go for SDR and LTE?

At early 2000s, everybody was talking about Convergence. Now we should talk about a Melting Process instead. The evolution of technologies tends to become more aggressive and risks to break-up the business models under which telecom operators are currently running.

If you stay too cautious you risk to get beaten by competitors. If you play the brave pioneering game, you risk to lose alot of money in the wrong technology. All this while being on an unsteady field where traffic growth rate becomes unpredictable and where calculation models predict the end of profit for mobile operators in the next few years (Tellabs' death-clock announcement).

Well, I think that we will face a new game-changing phase similar to the end of traditional exclusive Telcos in late 1990s.

Tight partnerships and even ventures between technology suppliers and operators will become a trend. Multi-territorial operators (FT, Vodafone, Telefonica, ...) will overtake the local operators. Markets could also be broken into smaller pieces of roles instead of the current Operator/Carrier approach as a solution for the bankrupcy risk.

Anyway, ALU's lightradio and Ericsson's are still shallowly presented. We hope Barcelona's congress will give us more answers than questions.

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