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Small cells

Qualcomm: Small Cells Key for 1000x Capacity

SAN DIEGO -- Uplinq 2013 -- Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs foresees a day when wireless networks will need more than 1,000 times more capacity than they have today, which is why the chipmaker has taken a keen interest in small cells.

It's also why Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM) has taken a stake in small cell vendor Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU). Speaking at Uplinq 2013 this week, Jacobs said that the partnership is designed to encourage the entire industry to accelerate their work on small cells, which he sees as the main way wireless operators will keep up with the growing demand for data. (See AlcaLu's Small Cell Menu: Stake and Chips and What's Next for AlcaLu-Qualcomm?)

"Alcatel-Lucent thought they could make a big impact in small cells," Jacobs said. "They were a partner that wanted to take the technology and run fast with it. When you get a partner like that, other companies see that and accelerate their plans too. It's our way to catalyze change in the industry."

Qualcomm builds chips that integrate both cellular and WiFi, but Jacobs said most mobile users today are defaulting to WiFi because they think it's cheaper to do so. Qualcomm's other goal with Alcatel-Lucent is to use small cells to bring down the cost of mobile data by merging the unlicensed spectrum with the licensed spectrum. (See Qualcomm Chips Away at Carrier Wi-Fi.)

"It's deployed like a WiFi access point, but managed efficiently like a cell tower," he explained of small cells. "That is how we'll solve the consumer demand for more data... but that doesn't mean they'll pay 1,000 times more for data. We have to drive the costs down too."

For its part, Alcatel-Lucent was more non-committal when discussing its strategy for integrating WiFi and cellular in multimode small cells. When asked whether all future small cells would include WiFi as well, Nick Cawgan, product manager for Alcatel-Lucent's carrier WiFi group, said it is something it will work out with each of its individual carrier partners. (See Multimode Small Cells Get Stalled in Labs.)

"We are working to understand what makes sense for them based on their business strategy," Cawgan told Light Reading in a recent interview. "That drives what we are doing for them. We are co-creating [small cells] with mobile operators."

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

Vitesse Semiconductor 9/5/2013 | 7:31:41 PM
Networking will be key Thanks in large part to partnerships like the one between Qualcomm and Alcatel-Lucent, there is little doubt small cells will soon be ubiquitous in networks around the world – hopefully before we reach a 1,000x increase in capacity demand! But as operators turn increasingly to small cells, they will need the sophisticated networking capabilities necessary to wirelessly link numerous network elements. Traditional point-to-point connectivity is very difficult for small cells on lamp posts, traffic lights, etc. Primarily, they will be linked using microwave or millimeter wave technology. Infonetics forecasts that 90% of small cells will be connected this way, which typically involves the cells being backhauled in a daisy chain or partial mesh along urban streets and then hauled back to a central aggregation point.
Sarah Thomas 9/5/2013 | 3:10:28 PM
Re: No spectrum hmm heard of it, for sure. But, you're right, haven't heard much about the Cube lately...just the lightRadio architecture. I'll ask Alcatel-Lucent what's new there.
milan03 9/5/2013 | 3:07:12 PM
Re: No spectrum Has anyone seen or heard of Alcatel-Lucent's LightRadio Cube deployment yet? That solution looked so solid, but it's been almost three years since the introduction. 

I'd love to see US carriers leveraging this technology. 
Sarah Thomas 9/5/2013 | 9:44:15 AM
No spectrum Jacobs noted a few ways to increase capacity on LTE networks to meet demand, including evolving from LTE to LTE Advanced and working on 802.11ac, but he said small cells will be the main way. He didn't mention spectrum at all. It makes sense based on Qualcomm's lines of business, but that's quite a change from the normal wireless show keynotes! 
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