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Small gadget could replace mobile towers


Global telecommunications company Alcatel-Lucent has unveiled a technology in Kenya that could render mobile towers obsolete in that country.

The company’s lightRadio technology, which is a tiny gadget that fits in the palm of a hand, has been developed to replace the bulky, expensive and energy inefficient base stations operated by mobile companies.

Developed by Bell Labs, the new technology has condensed the same components of a typical mobile tower into a single device, which is capable of transmitting 2G, 3G and the next generation LTE frequencies.

The gadget’s small size further means that it can be mounted on poles, on the sides of building or anywhere else there is power and a broadband connection.

Alcatel Lucent chief executive, Tony Woods, said the device could save mobile operators in terms of the costs required to set up and maintain cell towers.

"This brand will free the mobile sector around the world from its dependence on antenna masts and mobile base stations, which are generally the most energy-consuming components of the network, and also the most expensive and difficult to maintain,” said Woods.

Global operators using the technology already include Orange Telecom, Etisalat, Telefonica and China Mobile.

Developed by Bell Labs, the lightRadio technology works by creating a new architecture where the base station, typically located at the base of each cell tower, is broken into its component elements and distributed through the network or ‘carrier cloud’.

Africa, in particular, presents challenges for operators’ managing towers, as they face risks of unreliable power supply, theft and high costs of fuel to run generators that power some base stations.

And Kenya’s government is already holding discussions with several stakeholders, including Alcatel-lucent, on rolling out an LTE network which is faster than current 3G network used by some operators.


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