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LTE, WiFi sharing offers sol'n to ease network congestion

Posted: 12 Jan 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Ericsson? LTE? WiFi? LAA? picocell?

"Currently, there is approximately 550MHz of under-utilised spectrum in the 5GHz Unlicensed National Information Infrastructure (UNII) band, which is available for any use within the FCC's rules for the UNII band," according to Neville Ray, CTO, T-Mobile US Inc.

The word 'various' used by Ray clearly suggests that neither T-Mobile on the carrier side, nor Ericsson amongst the equipment makers, will have the field to themselves in all this. Indeed, there is a very closely allied initiative also under way, LTE-Unlicensed (LTE-U), first suggested by Qualcomm and Ericsson in late 2013, that also focuses on the use of LTE in the 5GHz unlicensed frequency band. This has been vigorously debated within the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) as, like LAA, has the potential to cause interference if LTE 'takes over' the WiFi it is riding on.

LAA trials reveal obstacles

Although not specifically noted, one of the most important considerations of the T-Mobile/Ericsson trials will be to assess in real operating conditions the impact of such potential interference. We have had little feedback on this aspect from trials such as those conducted last year by Huawei and Japanese carrier NTT DoCoMo that did demonstrate LTE-U technology works. Nokia and Samsung are also known to have developments around LAA. There are, not surprisingly, downsides to using LAA. For example, some have noted that it could degrade the performance of 5GHz WiFi networks. Network operators will also be wary as they may lose the ability to monitor, and thus charge, subscribers once they enter the unlicensed world.

It seems strange Ericsson decided to use CES to grab what it hopes will turn out to be first mover advantage for its LAA-enabled picocells. Yes, the Las Vegas extravaganza is no longer a show just about traditional consumer electronics products, but a more obvious venue for such a product announcement might have been the Barcelona gig that is the World Mobile Congress, taking place during March 2-6 this year, rather than the usual mid-February slot.

Perhaps the Swedish group has some intelligence that others involved in developing LAA small cell devices or trialing them was gearing up for a similar announcement. That would not be a surprise, as this aggregation technology is definitely one to watch.

- John Walko
??EE Times


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