Alcatel-Lucent, TE Connectivity bring common interface to DAS

A common digital interface between Alcatel-Lucent's (NYSE:ALU) mobile broadband network equipment and TE Connectivity's distributed antenna systems (DAS) is aimed at lowering costs for operators that need to add bandwidth in high-traffic locations such as sports stadiums and hotel complexes.

The companies are connecting their equipment via the Common Public Radio Interface (CPRI), which was designed to standardize the protocol interface between the radio equipment control and the radio equipment in a base station. The two vendors have specifically enabled interoperability at the CPRI located between the Alcatel-Lucent lightRadio Baseband Unit (BBU) and TE FlexWave digital DAS, with Alcatel-Lucent providing a CPRI that plugs directly into the FlexWave universal host.

Available next quarter, the joint solution will enable customers to migrate their existing Alcatel-Lucent and TE equipment to CPRI and still support legacy services.

CPRI was initially intended to enable interoperability of equipment from different vendors, but vendors have often implemented it differently, largely restricting CPRI to linking just their own base stations and radio heads.

Joe Madden, principal analyst with Mobile Experts, has noted previously that CPRI and the rival Open Base Station Architecture Initiative (OBSAI) standards "have never been used for multi-vendor substitutions because within these 'standards' are proprietary interfaces for normal operations and for maintenance functions." Consequently, "only the original base station vendors know the codes necessary to offer interoperable equipment," he added.

That has also meant DAS equipment from third-party vendors could not use CPRI to link with macro base stations. Instead, a DAS could only connect to a macro network using the RF signal between the DAS head end and an operator's base station, which, in turn, only worked if the operator's base station was equipped with RF processing and attenuation panels.

However, according to Alcatel-Lucent and TE, their application of CPRI eliminates the need for those RF elements, reducing physical equipment by more than 50 percent and the cost of material by 40 percent.

"Additional cost savings will also be achieved by using less power (equipment consumption & cooling), space and fiber utilization, resulting in operational improvements and meeting sustainability demands," the vendors added.  

For more:
- see this joint release

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