Uncommon Wisdom

Feb 9 2011   7:02PM GMT

Alcatel-Lucent’s lightRadio celebrates the small; what’s next?

Tom Nolle Tom Nolle Profile: Tom Nolle

Cost matters. Nowhere is that more true than in telecom, and in mobile broadband in particular. Operators are trying to manage what’s clearly a decisive shift of their own revenue/profit potential from wireline to mobile, and to manage the cost of creating and sustaining customers with ARPU. One of the key elements in this shift is the feedback loop created by ubiquitous mobile broadband, a rich inventory of new appliances like smartphones and tablets, and human behavior. With different tools, we do things differently, and planners are discovering that in mobile broadband, one difference is the way cell planning has to take place. Alcatel-Lucent announced a revolution in cell technology with lightRadio, a completely new way of looking at mobile radio networks that’s tuned to the real-world changes in broadband consumption that tablets now drive.

The basic notion of lightRadio is to make cellular antennas more “populist”; something you can stick on a wall or a light post or a traffic signal or even a billboard. The ability to deploy the antennas to ad hoc sites is created in no small part by their superior economics, but also by their significantly smaller size. The combination means that it’s possible to stick a dozen cells in a small downtown area where it might have been difficult to put five in the past. That means more than double the potential RAN bandwidth available to customers, and at significantly less than double the cost.

The question in my mind now is how much further Alcatel-Lucent might take its mobile revolution theme. Managing RAN cost-effectiveness is critical for the mobile broadband space, but all cost management strategies eventually fail, and all vendors that rely on them become commodities, or worse. For Alcatel-Lucent, the question is whether it can link the disparate elements of its Application Enablement story to the lightRadio picture, and thus capture the mobility/behavior symbiosis for its customers. If it’s going to do that, it will need to move quickly. Monetization strategies at the service layer will be reaching a critical transition point from planning to execution in the second half of this year, and there’s little time to wire the RFIs and RFPs in your favor.

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