Will ALU's LightRadio Solve America's Bandwidth Problem?

Apr. 6.11 | About: Nokia Corporation (NOK)

By Ryan Cole

One small box is about to save America’s cellular companies.

The simple fact is, despite a massive build-out, America’s networks are stretched as thin as they can be. AT&T (NYSE:T) has long been mocked for its network – but now Verizon (NYSE:VZ), with its iPhone surge, is experiencing the same problems. Data caps and heavy overage charges are being levied in an attempt to keep usage down – but that’s a losing battle.

As Americans upgrade to smartphones – and as a number of tablets and laptops get their internet over the air – data usage is expected to grow 30-fold in the next five years, and 500-fold in the next 10 years.

Complicating matters – there’s no space left. Not in terms of bandwidth, but in terms of real estate.

“Can You Hear Me Now?”

Currently, the only way to get signals to users on the ground is with cell towers. Cell towers are large, expensive and inefficient. They have to blast signals in all directions, and must use separate antennae for each type of signal (such as 2G, 3G and 4G). What’s more, those competing next generation technologies all interfere with one another, so power has to be amped up even more to escape the background noise.

But, until recently, cell towers were all we had. And, with the space to build cell towers rapidly dwindling, wireless carriers were facing a massive bandwidth crunch. But no more.

How ALU’s LightRadio Answers America’s Bandwidth Jam

Alcatel-Lucent (ALU) has invented a small box that, in combination with cell towers, can help alleviate America’s bandwidth jam.

For starters, it needs centralized power stations – like cell towers – to power the box.

But, after that, these boxes can do amazing things, they can:

  • Broadcast multiple signals from one antenna, reducing interference.
  • Direct signals in specific directions – reducing the need for the buckshot, power-draining strategy of the cell tower.
  • Be moved and aimed – pointing to one spot during high-traffic times, for instance.
  • Read real-time usage patterns and take aim at a passing phone as data is needed.

It’s called the LightRadio, and its best attribute is its size. Around the same dimensions as a Big Mac box, the LightRadio can be mounted almost anywhere – at bus stops, on traffic lights, on the sides of buildings – you name it.

Between its greater efficiency in sending signals, power-sipping electrical consumption and ability to aim where data is most needed, the LightRadio may very well prove America’s answer to its bandwidth question.

Sprint (NYSE:S) will begin testing the LightRadio in September, and Alcatel-Lucent will begin mass production next year.

If the LightRadio does what it claims, this should be one very popular product. Don’t be surprised if you see it pop up around your town – and the name Alacatel-Lucent to be in the news for quite some time.

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