Deploying LTE, and future 5G, in unlicensed spectrum is attracting rising MNO interest as it could reduce the cost of delivering mobile data, while providing greater control than WiFi. This is especially true of LTE-LAA (Licensed Assisted Access), which still relies on a licensed spectrum host network and the mobile core. That gives it advantages over WiFi and, unlike the emerging MulteFire, which does not require a licensed anchor, LAA is not open to non-spectrum owners to use to encroach on the MNOs’ territory.
However, there are still question marks over whether unlicensed spectrum – especially 5 GHz, where LTE will have to coexist with WiFi – can deliver a comparable quality of experience to that in licensed bands. Ericsson, in two trials, has addressed one of those concerns, over data rates, breaking the gigabit barrier in both cases.
The Swedish vendor broke speed records for LTE-LAA on two continents, with Singtel in Singapore and T-Mobile in the USA. In the former test, speeds of 1.1Gbps were achieved at the two companies’ joint 5G Centre of Excellence, using a new configuration of LAA.
The tests combined several technologies including 256 QAM and 4×4 MIMO to boost peak data rates, and also aggregated two licensed and three unlicensed spectrum bands on a TM500 Test System device.
“We are very encouraged by this breakthrough in peak speeds. In Singapore, a large percentage of mobile traffic is generated indoors with more mobile customers browsing the web, streaming video and accessing cloud applications on the go,” said Mark Chong, Singtel’s group CTO. “We are now in a position to deploy LAA technology to boost our LTE mobile capacity to meet increasing traffic demand. This will allow us to deliver a faster and more reliable mobile connectivity experience even during peak periods.”
The test broke the previous Asia-Pacific LAA speed record of 800Mbps, also set by Singtel. In October 2017, the operator cooperated with Ericsson to set up the 5G Centre of Excellence to encourage the development of new technology for the southeast Asian market.
In the USA, Ericsson and T-Mobile used a 12-layer LAA system to reach 1.1Gbps speeds.
“Breaking the 1 Gbps mark means that commercial gigabit speeds are not far from reality for many broadband users, with our LAA and MIMO technologies as key enablers,” said Fredrik Jejdling, head of networks at the vendor.
The live demonstration took place at TMO’s Washington DC lab, using Ericsson’s Radio System and TM500 network test equipment from Cobham Wireless. As in Singapore, the tests combined 256 QAM modulation and 4×4 MIMO antenna arrays, and aggregated two licensed and three unlicensed carriers.
“This LAA technology builds upon our deployments of 4×4 MIMO and 256 QAM and will give customers even greater access to near gigabit speeds in 2018,” said the operator’s CTO Neville Ray.