TI, Ubiquisys to develop next-generation 3G/LTE small cells

The two companies aim to help operators handle increasing mobile data volumes

Chip maker Texas Instruments and femtocell developer Ubiquisys will collaborate on the development of small base stations designed to help operators handle growing data volumes, they said on Wednesday.

Lately, telecom equipment vendors have shown a growing interest in smaller base stations. Alcatel-Lucent and Ericsson are both pushing the idea and made product announcements earlier this year. The reason for the interest is that operators need new ways to handle exploding data volumes.

It is not possible to meet the needs users have with just conventional mobile networks, according to Ubiquisys' founder and CTO Will Franks. A few years ago he found 3G performance very good in London, but now it is more difficult to use because the networks are saturated, he said.

Ubiquisys is best known for its femtocells, which are small base stations that attach to a fixed broadband connection and help improve indoor mobile coverage. The collaboration between Texas Instruments and Ubiquisys will result in a new range of dual-mode 3G and LTE (Long Term Evolution) small base stations, which operators will be able to mount on walls or lamp posts.

On paper, the performance will be up to 150M bps (bits per second) using LTE, with the ability to handle up to 64 simultaneous calls, or 84M bps using next-generation HSPA+ technology. Operators will also be able to add Wi-Fi to their small cells, if they want to, according to Franks. The first products will be available in the first half of next year.

Small cells that are compatible with both 3G and LTE have a number of advantages, according to the two companies. They provide a smooth migration to LTE -- it will take a number of years until LTE coverage can match that of 3G -- while also providing the near-term need for 3G capacity and support for voice services.

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Mikael Ricknäs

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