Nokia acquires Mesaplexx to think small for its future base stations

Nokia continues its focus on mobile broadband with a new acquisition that could help its push towards small cell technology.

The NSN flexi base station, which Nokia hopes to shrink with Mesaplexx technology. Image: Nokia

Nokia has acquired Mesaplexx, giving the Finnish company the technology to shrink its base stations and small cells — a nascent type of networking kit that may help mobile operators deal with the growing data deluge and capacity constraints.

With its devices unit now off its hands and left with Microsoft to deal with, Nokia's mobile networks business remains its chief revenue earner. To improve its prospects there, Nokia has acquired an Australian radio filter maker, Mesaplexx, which supplies compact radio frequency filters to the mobile industry.

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The company’s filter technology will now be used to improve Nokia's own radio equipment, helping it build smaller, lighter, and more efficient base stations for telecoms operators. According to Nokia, Mesaplexx's technology may help reduce its small cells' form factor by 30 percent or more, which could help it grab a slice of deployments aimed at boosting the capacity of existing LTE networks.

Some telecoms operators, such as Telstra in Australia , are testing small cells in heterogeneous networks to tackle 4G network congestion in metropolitan areas. Increasing the number of small cells on the network allows it reduce capacity by having few users per cell. Qualcomm and Sprint in the US trialled a 'hyper-dense' LTE-based small cell network this March at the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series to demonstrate the capacity improvements they bring compared to existing mobile technology.

Nokia and Qualcomm are looking to small cell technologies to help tackle a predicted 1,000 fold increase in mobile data consumption over the next decade.

Mesaplexx's filter product, xCube, helps radio equipment vendors deal with heat, output and multi-band capability challenges faced by base station deployments in the field. Benefits of its filters include increased capacity and coverage, higher power handling and throughput.

"Those familiar with radio technologies know that while there has been a lot of progress in recent years, filters are one area where new innovations can still yield significant improvements in performance," said Marc Rouanne, executive vice president of Nokia’s mobile broadband unit. "This company’s stand-out expertise has the potential to achieve that."

As Nokia highlights, mobile base stations require RF filters to ensure that spectrum can be shared within the same geographical area and that the same antenna can serve for both transmit and receive purposes.

It’s looking to Mesaplexx to improve radio performance and ultimately the efficiency capacity and of networks. Its technology should also help reduce overall cost and power consumption and keep radio signal loss to a minimum.

The acquisition follows Nokia's launch of a new mobile security business last month aimed at ferreting out a new revenues for its mobile unit by delivering security products to operators.

Mobile broadband sales accounted for just over half of the company's €2.3bn revenues from networks, which today, without devices, make up 90 percent of Nokia's overall revenues.

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