In what is a major endorsement for public access small cells, Sprint Nextel has announced that it will deploy Alcatel-Lucent’s lightRadio Cube Metro Cell to densify its Network Vision LTE network. Sprint plans to use lightRadio metrocells starting in high traffic indoor areas such as entertainment venues, transportation hubs, and business campuses.
“We believe that this type of indoor public-access small cell will become a popular method for operators wishing to preserve spectrum and augment the data capacity of their networks while improving QoS in high traffic areas,” says Nick Marshall, principal analyst at ABI Research. Marshall adds, "We estimate total indoor and outdoor small cell shipment numbers reaching 4.55 million by end 2013, and this announcement validates that view with a high likelihood of shipments reaching closer to 5 million."
“This is a significant win for Alcatel-Lucent and its lightRadio technology, but more importantly dispels the notion of small cells being hyped, and that heterogeneous networks represent a major shift in mobile radio network architecture”, says Aditya Kaul, practice director of mobile networks. Kaul adds, “While we have seen Korean and Japanese operators forge ahead with small cells both indoors and outdoors especially in public spaces, Sprint’s announcement could spark off other operators in North America and possibly Europe to accelerate plans for metro cell deployments.”
While we await more details from Sprint on which markets will receive the lightRadio equipment, Alcatel-Lucent has contracted with Sprint for its LTE macro deployment and upgrade along the East Coast and Southwest. Ericsson and Samsung are the other two vendors on the LTE Sprint Network Vision project, and are known to be supplying macro base station equipment.
While Alcatel-Lucent is one of the first vendors to have truly endorsed small cells and heterogeneous networks back in 1Q 2011, almost all of its competitors including Nokia Siemens, Ericsson, and Huawei have since announced and launched small cell solutions for indoor or outdoor public access deployments.
These findings are part of ABI Research’s Small Cells and Carrier Wi-Fi Research Service which includes additional Competitive Analyses, Vendor Matrices, Market Data, and Insights.
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