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Vodafone Uses Wi-Fi Spectrum To Boost 4G In LAA Trial

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Vodafone believes unlicensed spectrum can improve 4G coverage without disturbing Wi-Fi

Vodafone has successfully trialled Licence-Assisted Access (LAA) technology in the Netherlands, pairing unlicensed Wi-Fi spectrum in the 5GHz band with its own licensed 1800MHz spectrum to improve speed and capacity on 4G.

The trial, conducted with a Qualcomm modem and Ericsson small cell, used 20MHz from each band to deliver speeds of 274Mbps.

The operator believes LAA, or LTE-Unlicensed (LTE-U), is one of a number of technologies that can boost cellular coverage in densely populated areas, especially as demand for mobile data continues to grow.

Vodafone LAA

telecomsThe 5GHz band is used by a number of applications, including Wi-Fi, but Vodafone says the frequencies are less crowded – it thinks there is up to 600MHz available – and that its trial showed no interference with the existing Wi-Fi system.

However Vodafone wants the industry to work together with the rest of the industry and says it has no plans to rollout LAA until the standards have been finalised by the 3GPP.

“The standards process involves major operators, mobile network equipment manufacturers and mobile chipset manufacturers who are working to ensure fair share use among the multiple users and technologies (e.g. Wi-Fi) that access the unlicensed bands. The LAA standards should be finalised in 3GPP Release 13 in 2016,” said Li Lin, a specialist at Vodafone’s Mobile Access Centre of Excellence.

“Following this pioneering trial, Vodafone will continue to lead the telecom industry toward LAA commercialisation across the world. Vodafone is also closely working with Huawei on an additional live trial (which should be completed in 2015) and is encouraging other equipment/chipset vendors and various mobile device manufacturers to build a strong LAA ecosystem to benefit mobile customers.”

Ericsson has already released software to its operator customers that enables LAA, while Huawei believes the technology will boost the performance of small cells.

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