Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Cellphones Networking Wireless Networking Hardware

Alcatel-Lucent Shrinks Mobile Cell Tower To Small Cube 113

Posted by Soulskill
from the sprinkle-lightly-over-entire-country dept.
pbahra writes "French mobile telephone infrastructure manufacturer Alcatel-Lucent today unveiled technology that shrinks a mobile cell tower to a box the size of a Rubik's cube, potentially changing the structure of the cellular network, reducing greenhouse emissions and bringing mobile broadband into new areas. According to Wim Sweldens, president of wireless activities for Alcatel-Lucent, by reducing the technology from something the size of a filing cabinet, networks would reduce the total cost of ownership by half, as well as halving the global CO2 emissions from the mobile industry — currently equivalent of 15 million cars a year."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Alcatel-Lucent Shrinks Mobile Cell Tower To Small Cube

Comments Filter:
  • by HTH NE1 (675604) on Monday February 07, 2011 @02:48PM (#35128812)

    You have 30 minutes to move your cube.

  • by Animats (122034) on Monday February 07, 2011 @02:49PM (#35128832) Homepage

    They have a microcell, one about the same size as everybody else's microcells. Big deal.

    • by Locke2005 (849178) on Monday February 07, 2011 @02:58PM (#35128940)
      Speak for yourself... my microcell is much, much bigger!
    • by Aqualung812 (959532) on Monday February 07, 2011 @02:59PM (#35128950)

      From TFA:

      Other manufacturers have previously offered what are known as micro, femto or pico cell devices, which typically are used to take cellular traffic off congested 3G networks and delivered over broadband connections. Alcatel-Lucent claims their offering differs in that existing devices are mainly used to supplement existing cell towers in areas of high demand, such as railway stations and sports events, rather than replace them.

      Also, elsewhere in TFA they talk (without much detail) about how these devices scale from just two in small usage cases or can be stacked somehow to have the same number of connections as a full cell tower. Most microcells I've seen are only connecting double-digit subscribers, at best.

      • by TheTurtlesMoves (1442727) on Monday February 07, 2011 @03:07PM (#35129022)
        I was installing something similar when working for NZ telecom mobile back in about 2000. It was a bit bigger (50cmX50cmX25cm IIRC) and we were using them as "main" towers. Not supplements. I am not surprised that they are than much smaller now.
        • Disaster response (Score:4, Interesting)

          by grassy_knoll (412409) on Monday February 07, 2011 @03:56PM (#35129476) Homepage

          Perhaps a goofy question, but could the Alcatel-Lucent device in TFA be used to establish cellular coverage in an disaster area?

          Seems like small cube + antenna + battery bank + solar panels || generators would be portable enough for, say, a red cross disaster response team...

          • by kaiser423 (828989)
            These require fiber backhaul to a baseband processor, so no, they're not really designed for that. Current cell phone towers are much more monolithic and independent than these, which move most of the processing off-site.
            • by sg3000 (87992)

              These require fiber backhaul to a baseband processor, so no, they're not really designed for that.

              On ALU's website [alcatel-lucent.com], they say the cube would have microwave for backhaul and could use solar or wind for power, so for those cases it could be used for that.

          • ALU has another product, 9907 Rapidly Deployable Network that is designed for this.

          • We had a few mobile units. However these where older, so where not just the size of a truck. It was a truck. This included a antenna, generator, cell site and microwave link. Otherwise the other poster is correct, fiber or even older cable back haul was often as expensive and time consuming to get installed as the site itself.
          • by wheatking (608436)
            drop some of these 'cubes' in Tahrir square i say -- then breadcrumb them all the way to the nearest border...
      • >>>only connecting double-digit subscribers

        How on earth do they squeeze that many conversations into a few kilobits of datastream?

        • Most voice DMS systems only encode 4KHz of the frequencies that actually get picked up. Everything else is dropped.. Cell phones aren't that different, except that the encoding is done at the phone rather than a central DMS.

      • by rAiNsT0rm (877553)

        Also, elsewhere in TFA they talk (without much detail) about how these devices scale from just two in small usage cases or can be stacked somehow to have the same number of connections as a full cell tower.

        ...and these stacks of cubes only need to be between 150 and 300 feet high for this ;)

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by MarkRose (820682)
      What I'm curious about, is can you combine eight of them together to form a Tactical Fusion Cube [wikia.com]?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mccalli (323026)
      RTFA:

      "Other manufacturers have previously offered what are known as micro, femto or pico cell devices, which typically are used to take cellular traffic off congested 3G networks and delivered over broadband connections. Alcatel-Lucent claims their offering differs in that existing devices are mainly used to supplement existing cell towers in areas of high demand, such as railway stations and sports events, rather than replace them."

      Cheers,
      Ian
  • Wow (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Locke2005 (849178)
    Now if you could just take one of those cubes, attach a battery, and make it mobile... you'd have a mobile phone!
    • by Drethon (1445051)
      You know that is a rather interesting idea. Remove cell towers in areas where there are plenty of cell phones and use peer to peer networks. Though that idea has probably already been blown away for reasons I haven't read yet...
      • by Locke2005 (849178)
        Other have proposed that idea, and still others have rejected it because each hop adds round trip delay. So while peer-to-peer is great for message passing, it sucks for real-time audio. SMS texting, on the other hand, would do fine on a peer-to-peer network.
        • Other have proposed that idea, and still others have rejected it because each hop adds round trip delay. So while peer-to-peer is great for message passing, it sucks for real-time audio. SMS texting, on the other hand, would do fine on a peer-to-peer network.

          skype.

          • by Locke2005 (849178)
            By my understanding, Skype uses peer to peer for control (mapping Skype names to IP addresses), but not for passing actual audio/video data.
            • no, if i call someone on skype, my voice is streamed to my friend directly. not through a central skype server. to complete this trip, packets containing my voice have to hop from server to server, without any connection to any central server. this is as p2p as it can get. the whole thing works beautifully.

  • um... bad title? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Charliemopps (1157495) on Monday February 07, 2011 @02:58PM (#35128936)
    The title says they reduced a cell TOWER to the size of a cube, then they show a picture of a guy holding a cube and say it replaces the filing cabinet behind him. Is the tower still required or no? Because I'm fairly sure than most of the cost in a cell tower is the land required by the tower and feeder trunks. If this doesn't replace either then it's pretty much worthless.
    • by handy_vandal (606174) on Monday February 07, 2011 @03:02PM (#35128984) Homepage Journal

      Perhaps the guy holding the cube is the replacement for the tower.

      Say the reception is not so good on a rainy day. With a tower, there's nothing you can do, the tower is bolted to the ground.

      But the guy holding the cube, you can tell him "Turn a little bit more to the right ... sorry, I meant my right, not your right ... okay, that's better."

    • Re:um... bad title? (Score:5, Informative)

      by ColdWetDog (752185) on Monday February 07, 2011 @03:12PM (#35129074) Homepage

      The title says they reduced a cell TOWER to the size of a cube, then they show a picture of a guy holding a cube and say it replaces the filing cabinet behind him. Is the tower still required or no? Because I'm fairly sure than most of the cost in a cell tower is the land required by the tower and feeder trunks. If this doesn't replace either then it's pretty much worthless.

      There are two parts to this: smaller, modular baseband radios that can be (somehow, magically) clumped together so you can put the electronics in a central spot and minimize the 'shack' below the antenna mast and wider frequency antennas that minimize the number of 'funny rectangular things' hanging off the mast which, as a bonus, have an integral microwave amplifier. Sounds basically like they've managed to rackmount the radios and put the microwave amplifiers up in the mast so you don't lose as much power.

      Remember, cable losses at microwave frequencies is a big, big deal. I'm rather surprised that the amps haven't been mast mounted. Of course, TFA is light on useful details but it sounds like some reasonably advanced incremental engineering efforts.

      • I'm surprised that radios themselves aren't just mounted to the antennas. That's what all the WISPs are using these days- PoE right up the tower.

        Nobody still does long LMR runs for WiFi.

    • From the article. "Additionally today’s clutter of antennas serving 2G, 3G, and LTE systems are combined and shrunk into a single multifrequency, multistandard Wide-band Active Array Antenna that can be mounted on poles, sides of buildings or anywhere else there is power and a broadband connection."
    • Well, maybe, maybe not.

      One of the things the article mentions is using more/smaller cells to reduce power needs of cell phones (by having the broadcast location closer). So, if you have a multitude of smaller broadcast stations, they could be positioned closer to the people that need them... Less towers / more bulding-mounted cubes. For example: The chimney on my neighbor's house gets good LOS to my neighborhood.

    • by rrohbeck (944847)

      It says pretty clearly that the baseband functionality that's in the tower base today needs to go into a data center with a high speed fiber connection to the transceiver, which is what the cube is.

    • by Andy Dodd (701)

      Also, if you read things in more detail, a single cube doesn't replace that cabinet. An array of cubes does.

      One thing that is bothering me is their incredible power consumption reduction claims. The bulk of the power consumption of a cell tower is in the power amplifiers used to transmit - Due to the extreme linearity requirements and high peak-to-average ratios for CDMA and OFDM signals (Remember, UMTS uses a CDMA modulation scheme even though it isn't part of Qualcomm's CDMA2000 protocol/modulation suit

  • by danbert8 (1024253) on Monday February 07, 2011 @02:59PM (#35128944)

    Is that what they were wearing on their heads during the halftime show?

  • from the mobile industry???

    What do they run the towers on diesel generators? Are they coal fired?

    Or are they trying to justify this by saying it will use half the electricity of previous and thus has half the CO2 emissions? Then trying to estimate the source of power and calculate actual average emissions? Pretty weak sauce.

    I believe they are talking about a carbon "footprint" not "emissions". Of course I didn't RTFA, so who knows, perhaps cell towers are currently dirty technology, but that would be news t

    • by Goaway (82658)

      Or are they trying to justify this by saying it will use half the electricity of previous and thus has half the CO2 emissions? Then trying to estimate the source of power and calculate actual average emissions? Pretty weak sauce.

      Why would you need to "esitmate the source of power"?

      • by DarthVain (724186)

        Because your electricity comes through a distribution system that doesn't distinguish source. You could get 100% of your power from a wind turbine VS 100% from Coal giving you very different CO2 "emissions". You could also get every number in between, which in fact likely varies from day to day depending on load, and also from a host of sources; solar, nuclear, hydro, coal, oil, gas, wind, geothermal, tidal, etc... the percentages of type would also likely vary on time of day as load increases and more sour

        • by Goaway (82658)

          Ok, let's try this again: Why do you think you need to have a figure in tons of CO2 to be able to say that you have halved your emissions?

          • by DarthVain (724186)

            Exactly. Which is why the article is BS. I suspect because half your emissions in this case would be trivial. It is a lame attempt to try to take one story that isn't very controversial and relate it to one that is, for the sake of readership.

    • Coal fired? They could quite possibly get their power from a coal power plant.

      I've also seen many cell towers with diesel generators on them, but I would assume as a backup, because they're always off.

      But cutting power usage is great for telcos, because it takes a chunk out of the relatively tiny amount of money they spend to keep their network running, it's a pure profit increase. This can translate directly into more high-class hookers and high-quality cocaine on the executives' megayachts.

      • by DarthVain (724186)

        They could also quite possibly get their power from a wind farm.

        "This can translate directly into more high-class hookers and high-quality cocaine on the executives' megayachts."

        You ended that perfectly. Here I thought you were going to get all telco serious preachy. Well done sir. :)

        Though I also know some cell towers have battery backup in case of failure as well. However unless they retrofit the towers with smaller backup diesel generators, they would still burn the same amount of fuel to supply the same

  • tfa is worded poorly, this is a smaller radio and base-station, not a smaller tower.

  • by rossdee (243626) on Monday February 07, 2011 @03:23PM (#35129182)

    I think the reason they have cellphone 'towers' is to get the antenna up high so it covers a wider area and is less affected by buildings and stuff blocking the signal. They are still going to need towers unless they find some way of elevating those cubes above the surroundings. Maybe tethered balloons would work in some areas which don't have wind.

    • by sumday (888112)

      As someone who has extensively built and repaired all manner of cellular(GSM, UMTS, PCN/DCS) base station antennas for a living, let me tell you straight off that this thing is not revolutionary. Perhaps they've figured out a way of doing what is already possible (small antennas everywhere) at a lower cost in terms of manufacturing and energy-consumption. But, if I understand it correctly, the antennas consume far more energy than the electronics used to process the signal. I was also led to believe that gr

  • Finally, a real-life Arc-Reactor! Better hope the insurgents don't get a hold of that thing...our ground-troops will be cut to shreds by Iron-Jihad-Man...
  • by vxice (1690200) on Monday February 07, 2011 @03:25PM (#35129206)
    What doesn't these days?
  • I saw this movie. Opening that cube is a bad thing!

  • by jollyreaper (513215) on Monday February 07, 2011 @03:30PM (#35129240)

    Jen: [Moss has a small plastic box with a flashing light] What is it?
    Moss: This, Jen, is the Internet.
    Jen: What?
    Moss: That's right.
    Jen: This is the Internet? The whole Internet?
    Moss: Yep. I asked for a loan of it so that you could use it in your speech.
    Jen: It's so small.
    Moss: That's one of the surprising things about it.
    Jen: Hang on, it doesn't have any wires or anything.
    Moss: It's wireless.
    Jen: Oh, yes, everything's wireless nowadays, isn't it... yeah. So, I can really use it in my speech? What if someone needs it?
    Moss: Oh, no, no, people will still be able to go online and everything. It will still work.
    Jen: Oh, good, good...
    Moss: I tell you, you present this to the shareholders and you will get quite the response.
    Jen: Can I touch it? It's so light!
    Moss: Of course it is, Jen. The Internet doesn't weigh anything.
    Jen: No, of course it doesn't.
    [laughs nervously]
    Roy: Hey! What is Jen doing with the Internet?
    Jen: Moss said I could use it for my speech.
    Roy: Are you insane? What if she drops it?
    Jen: I won't drop it, I'll look after it.
    Roy: No. No, no, no, no, Jen. No, this needs to go straight back to Big Ben.
    Jen: Big Ben?
    Moss: Yep. It goes on top of Big Ben. That's where you get the best reception.

  • by Sir_Dill (218371) <slashdot@Nospam.zachula.com> on Monday February 07, 2011 @03:31PM (#35129256) Homepage
    I don't know about anyone else, but it looked more like a hellraiser puzzle box than a rubiks cube.
    • I don't know about anyone else, but it looked more like a hellraiser puzzle box than a rubiks cube.

      Looked like that to me, too.

      Looking closer it seems the creepy face is an antenna built using gold-plated stripline technology, i.e. a printed circuit antenna with a bit of gold plating to protect it from the elements.

  • Registered vehicles in the US: 250m ( Source 1 [wikipedia.org], Source 2 [google.com], Source 3 [bts.gov] ) Note that this includes all passenger vehicles such as SUVs, not just "cars".

    This is an important highlight because it confirms once again that power generation is a larger portion of the CO2 emission "pie" than that emitted by vehicles. So when folks talk about our need to implement CAFE or gas taxes etc in order to reduce CO2 emissions, I will continue to call it mis-direction and/or flat-out mindless drivel. Focus on the coal plant

    • once again proving that the perfect (or the better) is the enemy of the good. First, you're using the article's unsourced ~15million cars stat, but let's just assume it is accurate.

      If CAFE or a gas tax resulted in an emissions reduction of just 6% from registered vehicles in just the US that would offset the CO2 created to power all the cell towers in the entire world. The entire world. That is not an insignificant change.

      Obviously a 6% reduction in emissions for coal power plants would be more significa

    • by radl33t (900691) on Monday February 07, 2011 @04:06PM (#35129574)
      Since when can we only work on one issue at a time? What kind of psycho would completely neglect one important "piece of pie" because another "pie slice" is 10% larger? What kind of psycho neglects thermal efficiency when comparing stationary power generation to ICE? or the ease and pace at which we replace ICE technology compared to coal plants? Why should we work on any earthly problems at all, when we all know the sun will die and matter will decay? Please go spend time ranting about things you know more about. Thanks.
      • If given infinite resources, you could work on all slices of pie at once.

        However, resources are finite, and should be put to use where their impact can be the greatest. This is simple common sense.

      • by StikyPad (445176)

        What kind of psycho would completely neglect one important "piece of pie" because another "pie slice" is 10% larger?

        The type who's 10% hungrier?

      • by PhinMak (630548)
        Not sure if I'm just feeding the trolls here, but here's some rebuttal:

        Ignoring ad hominum attacks and thermal energy tangent, it appears your arguments are (1) work on everything blind to its contribution to the whole and (2) work on vehicle engines because they have a shorter product lifespan when compared to coal plants.

        (1) Focus on every single piece and you end up with no focus at all. The question is, where would you have the greatest IMPACT. The solar panel company I work for is now building sola

    • So when folks talk about our need to implement CAFE or gas taxes etc in order to reduce CO2 emissions, I will continue to call it mis-direction and/or flat-out mindless drivel.

      It is neither. It is a Liberal agenda that that feels that you shouldn't be driving cars in the first place because Cars = Individuality. And Bigger Cars = Outrageous Profiteering, so they get punished the most. Just join the Collective and Get On The Bus.

  • Is this related to something they found on the dark side of the moon? I think I just saw my phone move. That's it I'm going to buy a yellow Chevy Camaro!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 07, 2011 @04:05PM (#35129562)

    So the Internet is now a series of cubes?

    • by demonbug (309515)

      So the Internet is now a series of cubes?

      Only the wireless one. Naturally they charge more if you want yours with tubes.

  • Might this kinda thing be hackable? And what kind of price? What kind of protocols could this do? Are there others like it out there that do a similar or better job but almost as small? Software radio? Might this fit in some new kind of communication stack paradigm?

  • currently equivalent of 15 million cars a year

    Goddamn metric standards. Can someone please convert this to fully laden Boeing 787s per fortnight? I know I should be able to do this in my head by now, but I can never remember whether to divide or multiply by the conversion factor when going from Nonsensius to Ridiculii.

  • lucent spokesman wim sweldens was asked what the purpose of the new cell "box" was, to which he replied "You solved the box, we came. Now you must come with us, taste our pleasures."
  • by NicknamesAreStupid (1040118) on Monday February 07, 2011 @04:59PM (#35130124)
    KDDI's predecessors started something like this in the 20th century, using 2G with tiny sites on street corners mostly in urban areas. PDC was phased out a years ago. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personal_Digital_Cellular [wikipedia.org].
  • "Your life as it has been, is over. From this time forward, you will service us,"
  • The first thing this brings to mind is, how do you keep people from stealing them and holding them for ransom now that you've made them so portable?
    • by demonbug (309515)

      The first thing this brings to mind is, how do you keep people from stealing them and holding them for ransom now that you've made them so portable?

      I recommend placing them at the tops of tall towers, perhaps with barbed wire enclosing the base.

  • by frank249 (100528) on Monday February 07, 2011 @07:03PM (#35131460)

    Better article here [arstechnica.com]. One of the biggest advantages is that there is no signal processing on site and therefore no need for a hut at the bottom of the tower. The processing is done at data centres and signal sent to tower via fibre optics. Clustering the baseband units makes it easier for maintenance and also makes it easier to do load balancing across a region. When commuters are driving into work, for instance, the baseband cluster can turn its combined energy to handling the signal load coming from towers along the highways and train lines. During the day, processing could handle heavy downtown traffic, while it shifts focus to the suburbs in the evening. Such load-balancing doesn't produce any additional spectrum or data throughput, but it does mean that a carrier can operate fewer baseband processors, saving the carrier cash.

    The connections are fast enough to support a standard called CoMP, or Co-ordinated Multipoint. CoMP, which is currently moving through standardization, relies on the fact that, in many locations, a user's wireless gadget is in range of multiple towers (the closer one comes to the edge of each cell, the more towers can typically see the device). This is usually a waste, since multiple towers spend bandwidth contacting the gadget but can't independently deliver different data. CoMP turns it into a bonus by dividing up requested download data and using all cells in the area to deliver a different slice of it at once—akin to the way BitTorrent operates. The phone then combines the data from all the towers in the proper order. This additive approach to using different towers means that a user's total throughput can go up substantially, but it requires centralized baseband to function.

    Finally, the new lightRadio baseband bear can do software-defined protocols. Upgrading to LTE? Just upgrade the software on the baseband processor. (Traditional rack-mounted baseband processors required dedicated units for each protocol.) A new baseband chip from Freescale makes it possible, but it gets even cooler when used in conjunction with the new wideband antennas. LightRadio uses a new antenna that, in Alcatel-Lucent's words, collapses three radios into one. The radios are tiny cubes of 2.5 inches square, and each can operate between 1.8GHz and 2.6GHz. They use tiny amps that can be located atop the tower, built into the antenna enclosure, which keeps the amp size down and dramatically cuts down on the power loss.

    These radio cubes are stacked in groups of 8 to 10 in order to make an antenna element, and when one cube in the array goes down, the others remain unaffected. (In a traditional system, the whole antenna unit would fail.) The amps cover enough different frequencies that, in many cases, simply changing the software configuration on the baseband unit can control whether each antenna offers a 2G, 3G, or 4G signal.

    The antennas also do "beam forming"—fine-grained directional control over the radio signal—in both the horizontal and vertical dimension to better connect with local wireless devices. Alcatel-Lucent claims capacity improvements of 30 percent through the use of vertical beam-forming alone.

    The end result of the system: lightRadio cell towers don't need huts, they don't need air conditioners and heaters, big amps, fans, or even local processing gear. Baseband processing moves closer to the data center model and gets cool new capabilities like CoMP and load-balancing. The system's cost savings come from power (Alcatel-Lucent claims a 50 percent reduction), along with lower construction and site rental fees. The total macro capacity of the system should double while cutting operator costs dramatically.

  • Was it invented by Tony Stark?

  • My home has internet but really poor mobile phone coverage. It'd be nice to be able to buy a small cheap mobile phone "tower" that I could connect to my router, giving me and my neighbours better mobile phone coverage. I'd accept that it would be locked to some mobile phone provider or other, but I'm sure the provider wouldn't mind as I would be paying with my own money to extend their network coverage to fill in mobile phone shadow pockets that are too small for them to consider.

    I figure that such a smal

    • by Tacvek (948259)

      My home has internet but really poor mobile phone coverage. It'd be nice to be able to buy a small cheap mobile phone "tower" that I could connect to my router, giving me and my neighbours better mobile phone coverage. I'd accept that it would be locked to some mobile phone provider or other, but I'm sure the provider wouldn't mind as I would be paying with my own money to extend their network coverage to fill in mobile phone shadow pockets that are too small for them to consider.

      I really really hope that was deadpan sarcasm, but if not, you just described what have been variously callled microcells, picocells, or femtocells.

      For consumer usage, the search phrase would be femtocell, and they are available for purchasing many locations, but not australia.

      That is because Telstra feels that femtocells are normally used to overcome weak indor signals, but the frequency they use on their network (850 MHz) des nt have that problem nearly as badly. Virgin Mobile Australia and Vodafone Austr

  • Like some other commenters, I have a problem with these units.
    The most obvious interpretation of the sentence would be to look at how much CO2 a car produces per year. But since the mobile industry has an equivalent CO2 output equal to a number of cars per year, this ends up being an amount of CO2/year/year. Should I interpret this as the rate at which the Co2 emissions are growing then?

    Alternatively, it could be the total CO2 output of a car during its lifetime, or the amount of CO2 produced in making a ca

In every non-trivial program there is at least one bug.

Working...