Alcatel-Lucent Touts Mobile Wi-Fi Hookup With LightRadio


Alcatel-Lucent has an answer for device users who fancy moving seamlessly between Wi-Fi hotspots and mobile networks

Alcatel-Lucent has revealed a technology which allows users with Wi-Fi connected smartphones and tablets to switch seamlessly between wireless hotspots and mobile networks.

In February, 2011, Alcatel-Lucent first revealed its plans to replace large, power-hungry cellphone towers with tiny base stations a fraction of their size, by the use of LightRadio.

Network switching

LightRadio is a system built into a tiny cube weighing 300g which combines with a new system-on-a-chip from Freescale Semiconductor, to replicate all the electronics of a base station in a tiny low-power package.

Alcatel-Lucent said at that time the system would ease the overloading and expense of mobile networks, while allowing them to reach out to those still off-net in the developing world.

Now, the company has gone a step further by allowing users to seamlessly jump between Wi-Fi hotspots and mobile networks. According to the company, “LightRadio Wi-Fi sorts through the confusion of hotspots and cellular networks to find and connect with the best available wireless broadband network, while helping communications service providers extend their reach by integrating Wi-Fi directly into their service offerings.”

Alcatel-Lucent said that people liked being able to  switch from 3G or 4G networks to Wi-Fi to access the Internet, and pointed to increasing interest in Cloud-based applications, which allow for the storage of music and other content and personal data, as one of the driving factors. Plus the need to remain connected to Facebook and Twitter, of course.

Seamless handoff

Alcatel-Lucent admitted that switching from a mobile network to a Wi-Fi hotspot is not always seamless, “particularly when it requires first finding a network and then getting through complex log-in and password procedures”.

LightRadio Wi-Fi simplifies this process, the company claimed, by allowing people to switch automatically from a mobile service to residential or public Wi-Fi networks and hotspots without having to login, worry about payments schemes, or even be aware of the shift.

The technology has three modes of operation: by using software that identifies and connects people to a ‘trusted’ network automatically; by introducing new capabilities into service provider networks to manage the transition between Wi-Fi and cellular networks; and, finally, by integrating Wi-Fi directly into small-cell base stations and cellular networks.

Alcatel-Lucent accepted that some people may have security worries about this technology, but said that it thinks that question has been addressed adequately.

“Many people prefer to connect to hotspots that they know they can trust, especially when accessing services and streamed content from the Cloud, or when they need uninterrupted connections for video streaming or video phone calls,” said the company. “LightRadio Wi-Fi always finds the most ‘trusted’ network.”

The company believes its technology is applicable to both fixed-line and cable-service providers, because it will allow them to extend wireless coverage to their customers without investing in expensive spectrum or wireless infrastructure.

Broadband demand

“Delivering secure, seamless access to Wi-Fi networks is a key requirement in the market right now,” said Ken Rehbehn, a principal analyst at Yankee Group. “Alcatel-Lucent’s LightRadio Wi-Fi provides operators with a comprehensive solution that smartly draws from the company’s strengths in radio access technology and IP routing. The result is an offer that lets operators leverage existing network assets while delivering demanding smartphone users an outstanding customer experience.”

Wim Sweldens, president of Alcatel-Lucent’s Wireless division, said: “With LightRadio Wi-Fi, Alcatel-Lucent gives service providers new options to meet consumers’ fast-growing broadband requirements. Extending our groundbreaking LightRadio portfolio, service providers will be able to build closer relationships with their customers by delivering seamless high-speed broadband connections, wherever they are, using LTE and Wi-Fi networks. For subscribers, this approach provides the peace of mind they want when accessing the Internet wherever they go.”

Alcatel-Lucent also said it is extending the LightRadio ecosystem to allow service providers to access the “widest range of Wi-Fi networks”. The company is also collaborating with several major Wi-Fi access point companies to ensure interoperability and is integrating Motorola Solutions’ high-performance Wi-Fi system and Qualcomm Atheros technology into its multi-standard Metrocells to ensure that LightRadio Wi-Fi provides its customers with the best Wi-Fi experience at a competitive price.

In November, 2010, mobile operator 3UK deployed ‘human hotspots’ across the UK. This was achieved through users armed with 3UK′s MiFi devices which create a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot using the 3G providers’ network.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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