Alcatel-Lucent's lightRadio shoves a base station in a box, minimalists cheer

They've been fashioned after palm trees, Christ on the cross, and what look to be Dyson Ball vacuum attachments. But now, Alcatel-Lucent is giving cellphone towers a makeover that might actually stick. The company's new broadband base station solution, known as lightRadio, eliminates the need for cumbersome huts at the base of cellphone towers and packs antennas into a series of 2.5-inch boxes, while simultaneously improving capacity and reducing cost. These so-called radio cubes combine 2G, 3G, and LTE antennas with an SoC for processing, making them small enough to prop up on a lamp post. They're firmware upgradable, and utilize beamforming to more efficiently connect to wireless devices; according to the company, groups of 'em can not only increase broadband capacity by 30 percent, but also cut operation costs and CO2 emissions in half. Clearly, lightRadio makes a compelling case for narrowing the digital divide, but it won't be available broadly until 2012, which means the creative cover ups will just keep on coming. Sorry, JC.

[Thanks, Nathan]