NSN takes small cell fight to Alca-Lu

Alcatel-Lucent's lightRadio was the most prominent infrastructure launch of Mobile World Congress, and Nokia Siemens will hope to win the same prize at CTIA in Florida this week, where it will officially unveil its own Liquid Radio.
Like Alca-Lu, it is showing a new architecture that deconstructs the traditional access network, distributing the base station's functions around the network for more efficient use of resources.
The focus is on smaller cells, low power integrated antenna/radio units, and the potential to move baseband processing between cell sites and even to the cloud.
NSN did offer a few details of Liquid Radio in Barcelona, mainly to respond to Alca-Lu’s high profile launch, but it will now bring its new system into the light of day. It is not as cloud-oriented as lightRadio, at least in the first stages - and Alca-Lu itself admits its full vision will rely on ubiquitous fiber. In the meantime, the main aim is to create a more distributed and flexible network that can increase capacity and rebalance it according to user demand. This is what Liquid Radio claims, distributing the baseband processing among several cell sites with a technique called baseband pooling, which allows capacity to be shifted flexibly to where it is needed.
Though not exclusively about small cells, Liquid Radio and lightRadio are heavily focused on the trend for carriers to bring base stations closer to the users in order to boost capacity and quality of service. This will involve compact, power efficient picocells and even public access versions of the femtocell designs pioneered inside the home.
The new base station that underpins the Liquid Radio architecture is the Flexi Multiradio 10. This has the radio integrated with the antenna but separated from the baseband, and will allow baseband pools of more than 10Gbps to be shared across 100 cells, says NSN. The base station and remote radio head support GSM, W-CDMA, LTE and LTE-Advanced. The product is based on systems-on-chip from Texas Instruments.
Tommi Uitto, head of global radio access at NSN, said at Mobile World Congress that some elements of Liquid Radio - notably the remote radio head with integrated antenna and amplifier - will come to market before Alca-Lu’s 'Cube' modules for lightRadio. Like Cube, NSN's integrated antenna can be deployed in arrays to create cells of any size. Uitto said of the rival product: "It's a vision in line with what we have already developed. Technically it is sound. We just want to go beyond it."