Ericsson and Qualcomm have demonstrated that LTE-Unlicensed (LTE-U) works as promised in the labs, and now the vendor and its operator partners, Verizon, T-Mobile and SK Telecom, are gearing up to deploy the technology towards the fourth quarter of 2015.
LTE-U, or Licensed Assisted Access (LAA) as Ericsson and Qualcomm term it, refers to the use of LTE in 5GHz unlicensed spectrum bands. Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) sees LTE-U as an essential part of the still-developing 5G standards because of its use of higher frequencies on small cell architectures and the aggregation of licensed with unlicensed spectrum bands. (See Ericsson Testing 5G Use Cases, CFO Says and The Many Faces of 5G .)
The vendor, with Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM), has pioneered the technology and now the pair are showing that it can achieve speeds of 450 Mbit/s in the lab through combining the two spectrum bands and, importantly, do so without causing interference. (See NTT DoCoMo, Huawei Prove LTE-U Works.)
By its nature, LTE-U is a "rude" technology, which means it has the potential to take over the band it's operating in, causing the WiFi devices to experience degraded service or lose their connection entirely. (See Why Some Operators Think LTE-U Is Rude.)
But Ericsson and Qualcomm say their pet tech can play nice, which they have demonstrated for their partners Verizon Wireless , T-Mobile US Inc. and SK Telecom (Nasdaq: SKM), all three of which are keen to implement it this year. The vendor says it has implemented the technology in such a way that both WiFi and LAA users would have equal access to the spectrum. (See Jury Still Out on LTE-Unlicensed.)
Ericsson sees LTE-U as ideal for indoor smartphone app usage. As it explains in a release, "licensed band provides an anchor to ensure a seamless user experience with full mobility while the unlicensed band provides incremental capacity and enables faster data speeds."
As such, the vendor plans to integrate LTE-U into its indoor small cell portfolio, including its RBS 6402 Indoor Picocell for smaller buildings under 50,000 square feet, followed by the Ericsson Radio Dot system for medium and large buildings. It will trial the updated small cells with T-Mobile this year. (See Ericsson Unveils LTE-U Plans for Small Cells and Ericsson Preps Multimode Small Cell Launch.)
T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray says there is over 500MHz of under-used spectrum in the 5GHz Unlicensed National Information Infrastructure (UNII) band that is ripe for LTE-U and the performance benefits it brings. (See T-Mobile Assembles LTE-Unlicensed Team.)
Ericsson and Qualcomm demonstrated LTE-U in Ericsson radio development units in Ottawa, Canada and Stockholm, Sweden using 20MHz on licensed band and 40MHz on unlicensed 5GHz band. The pair also plan to show off the technology in demos at next month's Mobile World Congress.
— Sarah Thomas, , Editorial Operations Director, Light Reading