Tiny cube may replace cellphone towers

March 2, 2011 at 4:04 PM
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MURRAY HILL, N.J., March 2 (UPI) -- Researchers say unsightly, sky-high, cellphone towers dotting the U.S. landscape may someday be replaced by something no bigger than a Rubik's cube.

Dubbed the lightRadio cube, the new device developed by Bell Labs is attracting interest from cellphone carriers around the world, The (Newark, N.J.) Star-Ledger reported Wednesday.

Current cellphone antennas must be both large and tall because they rely on sending signals down and outward like an umbrella. Bell Labs say the lightRadio cube aims cellphone signals more directly, using far less power while providing 30 percent more capacity than current cellphone towers.

Wireless researchers for Bell Labs scattered around the world took up the challenge of replacing the giant towers with something more compact, and Bell researchers in Stuttgart, Germany, came up with a solution: three 2-inch, stacked circuit boards for the antenna, radio and network connection that replaces the conventional antenna system connecting every cellphone call.

Dozens of mobile carriers across the world have approached Alcatel-Lucent in Murray Hill, N.J., where Bell Labs is located, asking for demonstrations and trials, said Ken Wirth, president of Alcatel-Lucent's 4G/LTE wireless networks business.

Five carriers in the United States, Europe and China are enrolled for trials by the end of this year and the company hopes to begin making the devices commercially available within 18 months, he said.

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