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Alcatel-Lucent says mobile network operators and their customers in some of the world’s most congested cities for wireless broadband could see lost calls, data interruptions and variable connectivity become a thing of the past with its Metro Cell Express.

The new solution can be deployed in railway stations, shopping malls and sports stadiums. A Metro network of small cells, utilising the lightRadio system, promises to ease network congestion in “hotspots” for customers who want to use HD camera phones, tablets and other wireless devices to upload a photo of a sports match to Facebook or download a film.

Under the proposed deployment, the vendor will build networks in these urban environments.  Operation of the metro network would be transferred to network providers once the metro network has been installed, fully integrated and shown to be delivering the technical performance required.

Interest in such networks is expected to increase amid the vendor’s forecasts demands on networks could increase by 25 times in the next five years and as customer adoption of broadband-capable devices continues to rise. This poses a risk the wireless experience will decline and eventually become unusable in hotspots, unless operators accelerate toward a much denser type of wireless metro network.

Metro networks are a fairly recent concept and pose significant potential operational risks and costs for operators. They require huge numbers of small wireless radios to be mounted in unfamiliar locations like lamp posts; they demand high availability to power supply and quality fixed-line connections for backhaul; they raise potential new regulatory and municipal concerns; and citizens must be persuaded to accept a large number of unfamiliar devices in their domestic or work environment.

Caroline Gabriel of Rethink Research says: “Many operators are now starting to plan in earnest for large scale metro cell deployments. They recognise these networks need to do more than just boost capacity – to deliver business objectives, that capacity needs to be carefully targeted and flexibly managed.”

The complexities are far greater than in the macro cell market, with many issues to consider, such as site acquisition, interference, regulations, backhaul and cost. All these need to be addressed holistically to determine the best architecture for a particular operator’s business case.

“The new solution uses our wealth of expertise to take the pain out of building metro networks for operators and to enable customers to enjoy the benefits of mobile broadband anytime, anywhere with quality. The solution will bring massive capacity to urban areas, but is also applicable for delivering coverage in rural locations. We see this as a game changer for operators,” says Mike Schabel, vice president of Alcatel-Lucent’s Wireless, lightRadio Metro.


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