Bell Labs, the industrial research arm of Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), and Freescale Semiconductor are expanding their long-term partnership, including collaboration on a universal access device that can be used for any combination of wireline and wireless connections.
The companies plan to unveil a proof of concept of their universal remote node at the end of the research project in the first quarter of 2017. As part of their expanded partnership, the companies also are collaborating on a range of new initiatives intended to drive innovation as the world increasingly moves to virtualized networks.
"We're trying to get ahead of the game in terms of bringing up new technologies to the market," said Tareq Bustami, vice president of product management for Freescale's Digital Networking division, in an interview with FierceWirelessTech. The idea is to have a programmable access element that can work not only for wireless standards but also can operate with wireline standards, so it's one processing element. "You can make it talk wireless or talk wireline."
The pressure from an opex and capex perspective is high from an operator point of view, and they're looking ways to come up with a programmable element where they can move resources as needed, whether they need more for wireless or more for wireline. "Much like we did in the compute world… moving compute resources back and forth, we want the same idea on the access side," he said.
It's all part of the drive toward 5G, and while that has yet to be defined, it's clearly going to evolve from this converged access network where remote nodes are very close to the end user and more and more network elements are programmable.
"What you're seeing are distribution points, wireless and wireline, are going closer to the users," which becomes an operational headache, Peter Vetter, head of the Fixed Networks Program in Bell Labs at Alcatel-Lucent, told FierceWirelessTech. However, combining wireless and wireline make a lot of sense when it comes to areas like operational savings, power supplies, maintenance and backhaul.
"What we are seeing is the line between wireless and fixed certainly are blurring," especially on the infrastructure side where there's a lot of commonality, Vetter said. "These networks start looking very similar," and the end-users ultimately won't care if it's wireless or wireline--they just want a connection.
A lot of programmability is happening in software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV), and they're extending those types of capabilities to remote nodes. Operators want to be more agile and introduce new services faster, as well as compete with and offer new services to over the top (OTT) players.
Alcatel-Lucent and Freescale previously collaborated in areas such as wireless base stations and GPON technology.
- see the press release
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