Alcatel-Lucent, Qualcomm Make Big Plans for Small Cells

In a move that could help to accelerate its renewed cable industry ambitions, Alcatel-Lucent has formed a partnership with Qualcomm Technologies to develop multimode small cell base stations designed to help improve 3G, 4G and Wi-Fi connectivity in residential, campuses, shopping malls and other business locations.

Under the deal, the Alcatel-Lucent and Qualcomm will co-develop a next-generation of Alcatel-Lucent’s ligthRadio small cells outfitted with Qualcomm’s FSM9900 family of chips. The resulting next-gen small cells will look to handle increasing demand for mobile data capacity and network coverage, the companies said.

“This initiative perfectly illustrates The Shift Plan we announced last month, which will see Alcatel-Lucent focus on growth technologies, including those facilitating ultra-broadband access,” said Alcatel-Lucent CEO Michel Combes in a statement.

Alcatel-Lucent’s new plan will include a stronger focus on cable, a sector where the vendor’s had only limited success. Alcatel-Lucent has not revealed the details of this renewed cable angle, but Infonetics analyst Jeff Heynen has previously suggested that a logical entry point on the fixed side of the cable access business is EPON and the gear that adheres the CableLabs DOCSIS Provisioning of EPON specs.

The small cell collaboration with Qualcomm might also open up Alcatel-Lucent to cable’s mobile data ambitions. The MSO members of the Cable WiFi roaming consortium – Comcast, Cox Communications, Cablevision Systems, Bright House Networks and Time Warner Cable – have deployed more than 150,000 Wi-Fi hotspots, using gear from suppliers such as Ericsson, Cisco Systems and Ruckus Wireless.

MSOs are also eager to sell Wi-Fi offloading to mobile carriers that are looking to balance out the bits that are riding their cellular networks. Cable’s infrastructure puts them into position to sell access to their own facilities as mobile carriers look for ways to deploy small cells that expand and concentrate their coverage.

Tuesday was also earnings day for Alcatel-Lucent. It posted a second quarter loss of  €885 million ($1.17 billion) on revenues of  €3.6 billion ($4.7 billion), up 1.9% versus the year-ago period. The company was hit by a  €552 million ($733 million) impairment charge resulting from the impairment test review of assets that the company carried at the end of the second quarter.

The company’s IP division posted revenues of €624 million ($889 million), up 20.9% year-over-year, driven by edge router and Carrier Ethernet switches sales.