FCC Okays Further Testing of LAA Equipment by AT&T

June 11, 2013 –

By J. Sharpe Smith —

Senior Editor, eDigest —

The FCC has approved the request for a Special Temporary Authority (STA) filed by AT&T to test Licensed Assisted Access (LAA) equipment operating at 5 GHz in San Francisco and Indianapolis.

The carrier plans to operate prototype LAA equipment in the 5150-5250 MHz and 5725-5850 MHz bands to evaluate performance and determine customer acceptability, during the development, design and pre-production phases of the equipment, according to the STA request.

Last week, AT&T and Ericsson reached speeds of more than 650 Mbps in an LTE-LAA field trial that took place in San Francisco.

T-Mobile has also completed its first LAA mobile broadband data session in the field in Los Angeles, achieving 741 Mbps download speeds on 80 MHz of aggregated spectrum.

What is License Assisted Access Technology?

License Assisted Access is an LTE feature that combines frequencies in the 5 GHz unlicensed band with licensed spectrum to provide a wider channel.

The radio access technology allows licensed spectrum users to share spectrum, and avoid interference with, with unlicensed users by using a “listen before talk” method. Hence coverage for all users is improved, whether their devices are using LAA, licensed cellular or Wi-Fi, according to Ericsson.

“To improve app coverage indoors in any size or type of commercial building – whether that’s a suburban shopping center, train station or a high-rise office building – Ericsson is adding LAA to its indoor small cell portfolio, RBS 6402 Indoor Pico cell,” according to the Ericsson web site. “LAA introduces the security and performance associated with high-performance LTE networks to spectrum available in the 5 GHz band. To meet the outdoor hot spots challenges, Ericsson LAA is added to the outdoor small cell Micro Radio 2205.”

LAA vs. LTE-U

LAA and LTE-U aggregate unlicensed and licensed spectrum to create a better link between the base facility at the tower or small cell node and the user’s handset. Both technologies also had to be designed to coexist with unlicensed technologies to guard against interference.

Earlier this year, the FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology authorized the first LTE-U devices in the 5 GHz band.

On the same day that T-Mobile announced its LAA achievement, it reported that it is live with LTE-U, which requires a specialized proprietary chipset developed by Qualcomm, in select locations in its commercial networks in Bellevue, Washington; Brooklyn, New York; Dearborn, Michigan; Las Vegas, Nevada; Richardson, Texas; and Simi Valley, California. More LTE-U capable sites will be rolled out later this year.

Both LTE-U and LAA extend LTE into unlicensed. LTE-U was introduced  by 3GPP in Release 12 of its LTE standard and LAA was included in Release 13 of the LTE standard.

A mobile operator using LAA can support Gigabit Class LTE with as little as 20 megahertz of licensed spectrum, according to Qualcomm. LAA enables greater carrier aggregation than LTE-U, so mobile operators can combine larger amounts of unlicensed and licensed spectrum, according to T-Mobile.

AT&T called the testing of LTE-LAA technology a milestone on its way to 5G technology. The carrier’s initial LTE-LAA rollout is planned by the end of the year, when it hopes to reach gigabit speeds.

“LTE-LAA technology is expected to play a key role as we aim to reach theoretical peak speeds of up to 1 Gbps at some small cell sites by the end of the year. It’s also one of the technologies we’re using to enhance the network and boost speeds in our 5G Evolution markets,” Marachel Knight, senior vice president, Wireless Network Architecture and Design, said.

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