Small cells

T-Mobile Gets Small & Unlicensed With Nokia

Nokia has inked a deal with T-Mobile to develop small cells that will use LTE but run over public, unlicensed spectrum that is the domain of WiFi today.

Nokia says it is using a pre-standards version of LTE-Unlicensed (LTE-U) technology that operates in the 5GHz band that it plans to support in its Flexi Zone small cell line by the end of 2015. Small cells are tiny radio basestations that can be installed indoors or outside to help bolster voice coverage and data speeds available on busy 4G networks. Small cells and LTE-U are likely to develop hand-in-hand as moving up into the 5GHz range increases data speeds but decreases coverage range. (See T-Mobile Assembles LTE-Unlicensed Team and Know Your Small Cell: Home, Enterprise, or Public Access?)

T-Mobile's CTO Neville Ray said last week that T-Mobile US Inc. expects to start deploying small cells using LTE-U indoors in 2016. That will be followed by outdoor deployments.

"There's a great small cell opportunity in 2016," Ray said. (See T-Mobile: Google & Dish Could Be 'Interesting' Partners.)

Part of the appeal for Ray is the amount of spectrum available at 5GHz. The CTO has previously said that there is more than 500MHz of under-utilized 5GHz spectrum kicking around the band. (See Ericsson Preps LTE-U for Verizon, T-Mob & SK Telecom.)

Of course, that band is also used for WiFi. Ray has already stated that T-Mobile's LTE-U will be a "good neighbor" with the wireless LAN technology.

Although the T-Mobile deal is mostly focused on the near-future, Nokia tells Light Reading that T-Mobile has already deployed its small cells. "T-Mobile is currently deploying Nokia Flexi Zone small cells technology," a spokesperson confirmed via email.

For more on small cells, head over to the small cell content page on Light Reading.

T-Mobile CTO Ray said last week that T-Mobile is starting initial deployments of small cells. So it is unlikely that a great number have been deployed yet.

T-Mobile is also testing LTE-U small cells with Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC).

Like many pre-standardized technologies, LTE-Unlicensed has already got a gaggle of names for the same tech. Nokia and others call it Licensed-Assisted Access (LAA), DoCoMo has refered to it as LAA-LTE. Whatever you call it, the technology should be standardized in 2016.

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

COMMENTS Add Comment
SachinEE 2/28/2015 | 9:34:54 PM
So many on their hands? It's time to work! "Like many pre-standardized technologies, LTE-Unlicensed has already got a gaggle of names for the same tech. Nokia and others call it Licensed-Assisted Access (LAA), DoCoMo has refered to it as LAA-LTE. Whatever you call it, the technology should be standardized in 2016."

This technology has been successfully deployed by NTT DoCoMo in Japan, called "Licensed Assisted Access," or LAA-LTE, it uses Nokia's Flexi Zone gear. Ericsson will be testing LTE-U small cells with T-Mobile as well. The standard will be finalized by 2016.
SachinEE 2/28/2015 | 9:33:18 PM
Re: Good neighbour eh? These units will initially be installed indoors first and deliver LTE-U (unlicensed) via the unregulated radio bands in use today. The gear is built by Nokia Networks and it is called Flexi Zone.

While T-Mobile said that installations would begin in earnest next year, Nokia says that the carrier has already begun deploying the Flexi Zone small cells. LTE-U is technically in a "pre-standards" phase, operating in the 5GHz band. You might be thinking that it might conflict with your home Wi-Fi, but Mr. Ray assures that T-Mobile's LTE-U will not conflict with wireless LANs.
DanJones 2/25/2015 | 1:50:59 PM
Re: Good neighbour eh? To your point, they've been picking up as many 700MHz licenses as they can get their hands on, and badgering the FCC about the 600MHz auction.

But any carrier that wants to play in the market needs a mixture of high and low-band spectrum and will still need to get creative about public and private spectrum in the future.
comtech3 2/25/2015 | 5:42:55 AM
Re: Good neighbour eh? To me, this is a wasted effort by T-Mobile because for the most part what they need is a lower frequency spectrum that penetrates those areas where there are "dead spots", and we all know that higher frequencies  brings greater attenuation. T-Mobile rational for using that 5GHz band is for now, it is less crowded than that of the 2.4GHz band. However, that can change pretty soon. Truth be told, this is not only money wasted on this venture, but an exercise in futility! T-Mo once had a program where their customers received a free wireless router.That has since been abandoned. It think they should restart that program, and have some kind of partnership with Comcast, or any other cable company. Better still, I wish Comcast would use that money that was INTENDED for the TWC acquisition to acquire T-Mobile, who still has a "for sale" sign stuck on the lawn! Or the other option is to see what the whole "net neutrality" brings. The possibilties could be endless. Image T-Mobile supplying their customers with a cable modem that they can connect without paying the cable company for Internet access, but only for cable attachment to their taps. This would be like a competitive service provider intalling their switch inside the CO of an incumbent, but this time the competitive ISP's equipment is external to the CO, or headend!!!
DanJones 2/24/2015 | 12:45:46 PM
Re: Good neighbour eh? Well part of the issue is that LTE-U is likely to operate in 20MHz channels (with a carrrier band on licensed spectrum to handle the signalling), maybe 40MHz at most.

5GHz 802.11ac channels start at 80MHz and get up over 100MHz pretty quick, so....
sarahthomas1011 2/24/2015 | 8:59:44 AM
Re: Good neighbour eh? haha Great reference to a terrible movie. It seems there are two camps for LTE-U -- those saying they promise it will "listen before talk" and those saying "we just don't believe you." Even labs trials that prove it don't convince the naysayers. It all comes down to how it plays out in actual deployments.
R Clark 2/24/2015 | 12:56:03 AM
Good neighbour eh? Isn't that what they said to Seth Rogen?

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