broadband, video, mobile, cloud, networking
LTE-Wi-Fi combo pushes speeds, performance

Ericsson technology enables LTE airwaves to be bonded with Unlicensed spectrum, to improve the smartphone browzing experience

Ericsson has developed a new technology that allows carriers to add Wi-Fi spectrum to their LTE networks. The tech is called?License Assisted Access?(LAA). It will improve the surfing experience for all smartphone users, especially indoors. Ericsson found that only 41 percent of surfers are highly satisfied with their indoor experience when browsing or accessing social networks.

A version of Ericsson's small cell?in the pipeline takes advantage of LAA. T-Mobile US and Ericsson plan to trial the technology in the 5 GHz band sometime this year

A small cell is a miniature version of a base station, and they can be used to insert more capacity into the network.

By adding LAA to small cells, carriers are able to scale up data speeds in the most high-demand places, particularly indoors where most mobile data is consumed.

LAA uses carrier aggregation, which bonds together LTE transmissions from different bands. Instead of gluing together two traditional LTE networks over licensed spectrum, LAA tops off the network with any 5GHz unlicensed frequencies that aren't being used at any given moment.

LAA works under the same principles as Wi-Fi: Any network can use the airwaves - they just have to coordinate to avoid interfering for one another. That means an LAA small cell will constantly be scanning the unlicensed airwaves looking for free channels. When it finds one it sets up its 4G connection.

However, Wi-Fi airwaves can in some places quickly become overcrowded. That's the inherent limitation of LAA, Ericsson's head of LTE mobile broadband Eric Parsons says: since carriers don't have exclusive access to the unlicensed airwaves they're never guaranteed any set level of bandwidth.

But Parsons points out that an LAA network would never be crippled the same way a Wi-Fi network would because it still has access to the carrier's underlying LTE network on licensed airwaves.

While Ericsson said its LAA small cell will be available for commercial network rollouts this year, the mobile industry still has to release mobile phones and devices that can tap these new LTE frequencies.

But once LAA comes, Ray points out, mobile carriers would have a powerful new toy to build raw speed into their networks. After all, the typical LTE network today uses 40 MHz of spectrum, while the unlicensed bands have 550 MHz of usable frequencies.

Based on an article in GigaOm

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