If you’ve been reading up on the AT&T-T-Mobile merger you probably heard that at the heart of this merger is AT&T getting lots of cell phone towers (and the bands that go with it). Turns out that between regulatory constraints, time and money it’s not so easy to just blanket a neighborhood with cell coverage and what AT&T is getting equates to about 5 years worth of construction. Well, in big cities there may be a new alternative that’s about to be set loose to help inexpensively and quickly cover a city. Alcatel-Lucent has shown off a Rubik’s Cube sized device that they call a lightRadio. It’s essentially a mini tower that’s more power efficient than a traditional tower and because of the size they can be dropped anywhere. This means you can have a mini-tower on a bus station or light post and if there’s a major event (like a sports event or marathon) and you need more coverage you can drop more cubes there. And they can carry 2G, 3G and 4G signals and even point the antennae to a specific direction to make it more efficient. So you have a power savings and ease of deployment.

Now so you know the coverage for these cubes is only about a two block radius but take a city like New York and it’s likely a lot easier to drop these than it is traditional towers. Obviously they don’t fully replace traditional towers but they work with them to blanket areas that need more coverage. Take a few office buildings, give them a mini tower and move on to the next site in quick manner.

Trials begin in September of this year and they are expecting to produce lightRadio’s in volume next year.

via CNN


  1. Building a tower is only the first step. Ensuring that it has the necessary bandwidth to move the calls to the network has been a big challenge for AT&T. In the day of an iPhones and other smartphones, a T1 uplink isn’t what it used to be. So just dropping the cube is not an option, you still need the infrastructure to support it.

  2. christian’s right, more coverage per tower means more traffic per tower which means more dropped or failed calls because of traffic overload, requiring more lines to be run to the tower if it can handle more lines to begin with. the only way for this to possibly ease network congestion is if each of these “mini towers” was backhauled on something other than a cell tower (like a wifi connection or something)

  3. lol i just want one of these for my house in sacramento and my apartement in san luis obispo…. it would be cool if it was battery operated… id strap that puppy to my backpack and skate around haha

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