Mobile data usage grows almost exponentially. With more and more Smartphone usage, Wi-Fi hotspots and mobile technology in general, how to handle growing mobile data usage is the focus of wireless companies. Wireless companies are spending billions each year to maximize capacity. As their research and development costs grow, so do our cell phones bills. Costly cell phone towers being built at alarming numbers not only push our wireless bills up, but are unsightly as well. A tiny little device the size of a Rubik’s cube is being developed by Alcatel-Lucent (ALU) that may be the answer to both cost and more cell phone towers.
Tiny lightRadio Cube Could Be a Cell Tower that Fits in Your Hands
lightRadio cube technology was introduced in February 2011. It takes all the parts of a cell tower and reduces it down to a 2.3 inch cube. It is easy to maintain, holds a lot of data and takes a small portion of energy unlike cell phone towers which are expensive to maintain, large and ugly, and inefficient in their use of energy. According to an article written by David Goldman, CNNMoney.com, the global wireless industry is spending over $210 billion per year to operate their networks and over $50 billion per year to keep upgrading these systems to keep up with the growing demands of mobile data usage. Mobile data usage is expected to grow 30 times in the next four to five years and 500 times in the next ten years, according to Alcatel-Lucent. The lightRadio cube could be effective in reducing costs and providing more data capacity.
With a combination of miniaturization and cloud technology, lightRadio cubes are more efficient. According to Goldman’s article, “Alcatel-Lucent’s engineers stripped out all the heavy power equipment that controls modern cell towers, and moved them to centralized stations.” This allows the lightRadio cubes to be placed just about anywhere. The can be attached to the top of bus station awnings, the sides of buildings or even on lamp posts. They are small and inconspicuous. Instead of those unsightly cell towers, these little cubes contain multi-generational antennas that can relay 2G, 3G and 4G network signals all from the same cube. It also reduces signal interference, as well as doubles the number of bits able to be sent. But probably the best news is that it will help cut the cost of service in half.
“We need to think differently about this, because no one wants limits,” said Tod Sizer, head of wireless research at Alcatel-Lucent’s Bell Laboratories. “We hope to solve this problem so that the AT&Ts, Verizons and Sprints of the world will be able to provide the data capacity that is needed by the customer.”
lightRadio cubes are set to begin trial usage in September 2011. ALU expects to be mass producing them by 2012. Sprint Nextel is plans to start using the technology later this year.
“Sprint is talking to Alcatel Lucent about this technology and we will be working with them to test and evaluate it,” a Sprint spokeswoman said. “We have been aggressive in smaller factor cell sites to help us support the growth in data traffic.”
Size does matter. The wireless companies are finding that not only are cell phone towers expensive to build and maintain, but they are exhausting room to build these monstrosities as well. According to Goldman’s article, “Each 1.5-Watt lightRadio cube powers about a two-block radius, so in urban areas, they can be deployed throughout the city and stacked like Lego blocks in stadiums or other areas that need extra capacity. In rural areas, they can be deployed atop existing cell towers in arrays.”
Are you as excited as I am about this innovation? It would be nice to actually tear down a lot of the obsolete towers. They are unsightly and not all that efficient. I remember when Nextel created cell phone tower sheaths, coverings that disguised the tower to look like a native grown tree. It was some improvement in aesthetics, but not by much. They were actually pretty funny looking trees. Having little cubes instead is much better.
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