Bell Labs chief touts small cells as “the only answer” for network crunch

Bell Labs chief touts small cells as “the only answer” for network crunch

18 NOV 2014

ALCATEL-LUCENT TECHNOLOGY SYMPOSIUM 2014: Marcus Weldon, president of Bell Labs and CTO of Alcatel-Lucent, outlined a vision for the evolution of the mobile network which featured small cells prominently, arguing that this technology in combination with fixed-line networks is “the only answer”.

The proliferation of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, coupled with the growth of cloud services, has meant that the network has become a critical part of the chain. “As soon as we go to mobile devices, to live our lives digitally, we have to connect to the cloud constantly. Between device and cloud has to be an incredibly high performance network, and if it’s my life I’m living that way, it’s not all right to have it as a best effort network,” Weldon said.

“You can think of it as a three legged stool. Two good legs – cloud and devices – the network is the half a leg, or the incomplete leg, and our industry’s job is to fix that problem,” he observed.

But, Weldon cautioned, further innovation in mobile networks will run into limitations in terms of what is possible due to the laws of physics. “Because we have chosen to live a mobile life, we are constrained by spectrum, spectral efficiency, and how that spectrum attenuates over distance. There is no simple solution to that,” he said.

“We have about twice the spectrum available in the low frequency bands as we have already deployed. So maybe I can get a factor of two by using more spectrum. We are within a factor of two of the maximum spectral efficiency. So if I use spectrum and spectral efficiency, I get a factor of four,” Weldon asserted.

“I want to do 100 times. The only way I get to do 100 times is to go close, re-use that spectrum in small cells, use all the capacity and spectral efficiency for small user groups. That must be the way. That’s why we invested in small cells, it’s because it’s clear we are near a physical limit, and the only way to address that physical limit problem is to invest in small cells,” he continued.

Alcatel-Lucent’s efforts in this area include a July 2013 tieup with Qualcomm that aims to “enhance 3G, 4G and Wi-Fi networks” in enterprise and residential settings.

“The world has chosen to live a mobile life, and connect mobiles to the cloud. The network has to grow 100 times, and wireline with small cells is the only answer,” stated Weldon.


Steve Costello

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