The first small cells to spring from Qualcomm's investment in Alcatel-Lucent will come to market in the middle of this year, according to both companies.
Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM) announced it was partnering with and taking a small stake in Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) in July of last year, promising that the companies would jointly develop a multimode small cell that combines AlcaLu's lightRadio radio access network (RAN) with Qualcomm's small cell chips. Company execs now say that the first of these will come to market in the middle of the year. (See AlcaLu's Small Cell Menu: Stake and Chips and What's Next for AlcaLu-Qualcomm?)
One of company's promised selling points of the tie-up back in July was a faster time to market for multimode small cells in the enterprise, which is where AlcaLu's first devices are headed. Mike Schabel, general manager of Alcatel-Lucent's small cell group, says Qualcomm has been "awesome to work with" and that the companies are on schedule, "fully ramped, and executing."
"Our first product will be available by the middle of the year," he told Light Reading recently. "The quality of the products we're integrating with are perfect."
While multimode 3G and 4G is its top priority, Schabel says that all of AlcaLu's small cells will have WiFi integrated going forward. As of January, the company has 65 contracted, revenue-generating customers in 42 countries. It doesn't explicitly split out between enterprise or public access, 3G or WiFi, small cells, but Schabel says most of the enterprise and residential deployments are 3G and the metro split is about 50/50 between 3G and 4G.
"WiFi is really mostly on the metro portfolio today and is going to come in the enterprise portfolio as we add the new Qualcomm portfolio mid-year," Schabel says, adding that more wins are forthcoming.
From Qualcomm's perspective, investing in AlcaLu was about getting traction for its small cell chipset that will support all flavors of network access. Rasmus Hellberg, senior director of technical marketing at Qualcomm, says achieving this is something the chip giant is working on all the time, alongside its other projects, including bringing the benefits of LTE-Advanced to unlicensed spectrum.
"We already are working on a multimode solution that does 3G, LTE, WiFi, and LTE-Advanced," he says. "To some extent you can see it as an extension to the small cell strategy."
Qualcomm and Alcatel-Lucent certainly aren't alone in their ambitions. The race is well and truly on to be the first vendor to produce a multimode small cell for the enterprise in 2014. SpiderCloud Wireless , Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), and several others have their name in the running as well. (See Vodafone Launches Small Cell Service in UK, Ericsson Expects Smooth Sailing for Radio Dot , and Cisco: Multimode Small Cells Coming Early 2014.)
— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading