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Lucent puts new zing into old networks

The networking gear maker introduces hardware designed to help cash-strapped carriers squeeze more use out of old cell phone networks.

Lucent Technologies wants to help cash-strapped carriers squeeze more use out of their old cell phone networks.

The network gear maker is banking on retrofitting coming into vogue. On Wednesday, it introduced the Flexent CDMA High Density 4.0, a piece of hardware that triples a network's capacity while reusing existing antennas, filter and amplifiers.

"It provides ultimate investment protection and reduces capital expenditures, while bringing cutting-edge capabilities to Lucent's base stations," Bill Zucker, vice president at Lucent, said in a statement.

Cutthroat pricing and a dour economic climate have left many carriers without the cash to build an entirely new network, the usual way of increasing capacity. However, wireless carriers are still adding new customers. That means they must find additional room on their networks for more calls.

The new initiative is an "interesting play," especially for cell phone companies, IDC analyst Keith Waryas said.

Flexent CDMA High Density 4.0 is designed to rebuild base stations that are more than 10 years old and among the earliest generations of Lucent's networking equipment. It is for cell phone networks that use the Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) standard, used by about 20 percent of the world's cell phone networks. The other networks are almost all powered by technology using the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) standard.

Nortel Networks and other network equipment makers did not immediately return calls for comment Wednesday. The Flexent equipment will initially be available in North America, but Lucent did not provide a release date.