Alcatel-Lucent becomes latest beneficiary of Vodafone's Project Spring

Alcatel-Lucent became the latest vendor to benefit from Vodafone's £7 billion (€8.79 billion/$11.97 billion) Project Spring network investment plan, after being picked as the operator's supplier of reference for LTE metro cells that come integrated with Wi-Fi.

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Michel Combes, CEO of Alcatel-Lucent

The equipment manufacturer said it already provides residential and enterprise small cells to various Vodafone units, and this latest win extends its remit to small cells that are used in urban areas to complement an operator's macro network. The award is also important for Alcatel-Lucent as it had previously been left out of the Project Spring programme.

In February, Ericsson and Nokia Networks also won five-year deals under the Project Spring programme. These deals largely focused on upgrading and expanding Vodafone's existing 2G, 3G and LTE networks.

Alcatel-Lucent has long been a strong proponent of the use of small cells as a part of LTE networks to help add capacity and improve coverage in areas of high usage by offloading traffic from the macro network. The vendor said Vodafone's decision to use metro cells from Alcatel-Lucent signifies the operator's commitment to developing multi-vendor heterogeneous networks (Hetnets).

"Vodafone Group is taking a leadership role with the deployment of small cells throughout their global properties and by serving as an industry reference with the deployment of a multi-vendor heterogeneous architecture," commented Luis Martinez Amago, president of Alcatel-Lucent's EMEA region.

As supplier of reference, Alcatel-Lucent said it is now able to bid on business in all Vodafone countries with its outdoor small cell products, or metro cells. That in turn will help boost the company's transformation under the Shift plan, as unveiled by CEO Michel Combes last year.

Metro cells have also gained momentum at the Small Cell Forum, which is responsible for driving interoperability and standardisation of small cells of all types.

 In June, the Forum unveiled Release Four: Urban, which it said covers the full range of issues that may concern an operator wishing to deploy urban (or metro) small cells.

Key challenges include finding and securing sites for small cells as well as backhaul. Speaking at Mobile World Congress this year, Gordon Mansfield, the chairman of the Small Cells Forum who is also responsible for small cells deployment at AT&T, said operators would look to use fibre where it is available. Otherwise they would consider wireless options with the ultimate goal of returning traffic to fibre networks as quickly as possible.

Mansfield also stressed the importance of including Wi-Fi within small cells. "It's no longer a case of 'Wi-Fi or'," he said. "It's Wi-Fi and small cells together…Carrier-grade Wi-Fi is a mandatory component of small cells."

For more:
- see this Alcatel-Lucent release

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