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HetNet News: Alcatel-Lucent, Nokia unveil new small cells, CommScope readies ION-E

Alcatel-Lucent will start reaping the benefits of its partnership with Qualcomm when it launches a new enterprise small cell early next year. The company’s upcoming solution will use carrier aggregation to support 3G and LTE on a single chipset, Qualcomm’s FSM9955.

At launch, Alcatel-Lucent’s 9962 enterprise small cell will simultaneously support 32 LTE users and 32 3G users. In LTE-only mode, it can support 128 users. A software-defined radio enables operators to transition the small cells to LTE as needed. Alcatel-Lucent says the 9962 is currently in trials with several customers.

Alcatel-Lucent multi-standard small cell bands

Wi-Fi integration is key to operators as they evaluate small cells. Qualcomm’s small cell chipsets aggregate and integrate Wi-Fi traffic at Layer 3, which allows for connection management.

The chipsets have two PCIE ports which can support Wi-Fi radios.

Qualcomm envisions enterprise small cells as solutions that can extend coverage beyond the building. To date, many outdoor small cell deployment efforts have been plagued by power and backhaul challenges. Leveraging the Ethernet connections that typically power enterprise small cells is seen as a possible solution to this problem in some areas.

LTE femtocell
Alcatel-Lucent and Qualcomm announced their partnership just over a year ago, with plans to develop an enterprise small cell solution. Now the companies say the pace at which they have progressed has encouraged them to extend their roadmap to also include an LTE femtocell product.

“Extending into the residential sector allows us to offer an even greater range of integrated cellular and Wi-Fi products to meet all providers’ needs,” said Alcatel-Lucent’s Mike Schabel. As operators transition voice service to LTE, many customers may want femtocells in their homes to maintain connections as they come and go.

Nokia Networks doubles small cell capacity
Nokia is also upping its small cell game. Today the company announced a new picocell base station that targets “advanced LTE markets.” The 8 liter, 8 kg unit will offer 3.5 GHz TD-LTE carrier aggregation with 4×4 MIMO, and integrated 802.11ac Wi-Fi.

Nokia says the new cell can be used as a standalone solution or paired with its controller to create an eNodeB by combining several small cells.

Newly acquired 3D location mapping technology is being put to use by Nokia in its small cell portfolio. The company says the tools it purchased from NICE Systems will be used to pinpoint locations within buildings that have the greatest needs for more coverage.

CommScope enterprise solution ready for U.S. operator trials
CommScope says it ION-E wireless technology has been cleared for operator network trials in the United States. ION-E leverages the cable that is already in place in many enterprises to unite power, wireless connectivity and GigaBit Ethernet for Wi-Fi.

By centralizing the baseband processing, CommScope’s solution can serve a number of remote radio access points. This approach, known as C-RAN (for cloud RAN or centralized RAN), enables operators to create denser networks and control operating expenses. It can also facilitate delivery of a wireless signal to areas that might otherwise be difficult to reach.

“What once was a niche market — using distributed antenna systems to bring wireless coverage into hard-to-reach areas — has become a primary focus for most network operators and increasingly many enterprise IT organizations,” said Matt Melester, SVP and general manager, distributed coverage and capacity solutions at CommScope.

ION-E has been in network trials in Europe, and CommScope says that with those trials proceeding on schedule it is now ready to work with U.S. operators as well.

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Martha DeGrasse
Martha DeGrasse is the publisher of Network Builder Reports ( At RCR, Martha authored more than 20 in-depth feature reports and more than 2,400 news articles. She also created the Mobile Minute and the 5 Things to Know Today series. Prior to joining RCR Wireless News, Martha produced business and technology news for CNN and Dow Jones in New York and managed the online editorial group at Hoover’s Online before taking a number of years off to be at home when her children were young. Martha is the board president of Austin's Trinity Center and is a member of the Women's Wireless Leadership Forum.

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