Alcatel-Lucent's multi-mode radio may aid refarming efforts

Alcatel-Lucent yesterday released a new software-defined radio module the company said will allow wireless carriers to offer faster mobile broadband technologies such as HSPA and LTE on frequencies that were designed for legacy GSM services.

The module, dubbed MC-TRX, will let operators run multiple wireless technologies on the same frequency band, Alcatel-Lucent said. A prime target is the 900 MHz band, which is currently being "refarmed" in Europe, a process in which carriers are being allowed to push next-generation technologies onto spectrum that was once reserved solely for GSM.

By creating a software module, Alcatel-Lucent is hoping carriers will find it a relatively easy way to increase mobile broadband capacity. Carriers can upgrade their base stations simply by changing the software configuration, the company said.

"It's really sort of extending the software-defined radio concept that's been around for years," Peter Jarich, an analyst at Current Analysis, told FierceWireless. "For years, software-defined radio has really been more about the software-defined baseband, not the radio frequency." 

The push toward software-defined radios that can give carriers greater flexibility is something that been gaining support in the mobile vendor community. As operators search for extra capacity to meet the demands of growing mobile data traffic, refarming current spectrum holdings to support faster network technologies can serve as an interim step.

"It's basically just about savings," Jarich said, noting it gives operators more flexibility in switching from GSM legacy systems to HSPA, or from HSPA to LTE.

Jarich said most U.S. carriers have little need to refarm spectrum since most are deploying LTE onto 700 MHz bands that are free of legacy operations. However, he noted that AT&T Mobility is dabbling in refarming with its efforts to move 3G services from 1900 MHz to its more transmission-friendly 850 MHz band. Further, in the future a carrier such as T-Mobile USA might decide to refarm its 2G spectrum for 3G services.

For more:
- see this IDG News Service article
- see this Light Reading article

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