Alcatel-Lucent invests €3M in 'fronthaul' specialist EBlink

Alcatel-Lucent is investing €3 million ($4 million) in a French start-up company that specialises in the equipment manufacturer's core areas of LTE mobile networks and small cells, with a focus on mobile fronthaul to replace the physical link for mobile broadband networks.

Alcatel-Lucent said it has signed a commercial and technological partnership agreement with EBlink, which was established in France in 2005.

Rather than backhaul, EBlink is promoting "wireless fronthaul", which is designed to eliminate the last few hundred metres of fibre required for the deployment of macro and small cells. This is achieved through the use of a wireless connection between the base station baseband unit processing element (BBU) and the Remote Radio Heads (RRH).

"As announced in The Shift Plan, we are working with companies where it makes sense to strengthen our portfolio of solutions. Our work with EBlink allows us to further extend this comprehensive portfolio to meet all of our customers' LTE and small cell deployment needs," said Philippe Keryer, chief strategy and innovation officer of Alcatel-Lucent.

According to Alcatel-Lucent, wireless fronthaul technology is seen as essential to the development of small cells to ensure coverage and high-speed service. The company commented that EBlink's wireless solutions complement its wireless LTE and small cells offerings, strengthen its activities in the fields of Cloud RAN and 5G architecture and drive a reduction in the cost of deployment overall.

EBlink sells its technology under the patented FrontLink family of products, which are based on the Common Public Radio Interface (CPRI) protocol. The FrontLink 58 system operates in the unlicensed band and is designed to connect base stations to multiple sectors or to support multiple frequency bands. EBlink claims that FrontLink 58 "is the only wireless fronthaul solution available today with the capability to carry three CPRI channels on a single links", able to squeeze "up to three full capacity LTE channels in less than 75 MHz of spectrum.

Citing "detailed studies", EBlink also claims that wireless fronthaul "can save an average of 40 per cent versus fibre-based deployment".

EBlink already counts Orange France as one of its customers: "Orange has been working with EBlink for several years and we are pleased with the performance of their Wireless Fronthaul solutions. We fully support the integration of EBlink's technology into the roadmap of our base station vendors," commented Alain Maloberti, chief network officer of Orange.

3 UK also recently said that fronthaul would feature in its architecture and technology evolution.

For more:
- see this Alcatel-Lucent release

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