Alcatel Lucent shares small cells vision

Networking vendor Alcatel Lucent opened up is campus at Villarceaux, just outside of Paris, to showcase some of the projects its R&D arm – Bell Labs – is working on. Principal among these is its focus on small cells, including new partnerships with Qualcomm, JC Decaux and Accenture. attended the event and spoke to Bell Labs President and Alcatel-Lucent CTO Marcus Weldon about some of the projects being showcased at the event. “One project we’ve started concerns the future of communications. I think we’re in a post-voice world where people would rather communicate by text, because they can fit that in their lives in a more convenient way. We have another project on 5G called Future Connect, which is about bringing together all the elements of 5G and building something that’s real around this ‘network of you’.”

But a major focus of the day was recent partnerships with Qualcomm, to enable 3G/4G/wifi small cells, with outdoor advertising giant JC Decaux, to embed small cells inside street furniture such as bus stops, and with Accenture to facilitate the roll-out of small cells to offices.

“We’re also here today to talk about small cell architectures, because one part of even 4G is small cells and it’s certainly going to be a huge part of 5G,” said Weldon. “You really only have three ways that you can improve wireless capacity: spectrum and spectral efficiency are getting close to their limits, so all we’ve got left is space and we do things in a smaller area.

“Today’s mobile networks were designed for coverage, which is why towers are kilometres apart, because the goal was to create uniform coverage to you placed things as far away from you as you could get away with. But with capacity networks you do the opposite, placing things as close as possible to the end user, and small cells are about the first generation of capacity-led networks.”

“The new thing about small cells is we now need them, and technologically we’ve figured out how to make them work underneath the macro, which LTE really helped with. And everyone has realised that the wireless future is also applicable to work, so if we all want to be on tablets rather than laptops at work then you need a new wireless infrastructure within the building and the only way you’re going to do that is with small cells.”

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