AT&T is taking its LTE-LAA technology to new heights with plans to test prototype Ericsson equipment in the 5150-5250 MHz and 5725-5850 MHz bands in San Francisco and Indianapolis.
AT&T revealed last month that it had conducted one of the first live LTE-LAA field trials, reaching wireless speeds of more than 750 Mbps in downtown San Francisco with Ericsson equipment. Now, AT&T wants to conduct trials of Ericsson gear at six San Francisco addresses and two in Indianapolis.
AT&T explained in its application that a grant of Special Temporary Authority (STA) is needed while the FCC completes its review and processing of pending applications for certification of the equipment.
Update: The FCC approved AT&T's application since this story was first published.
LTE-LAA is the flavor of technology developed through 3GPP that spells out how a licensed carrier can introduce LTE in unlicensed spectrum to get more bang for their buck. LTE-LAA combines unlicensed spectrum with licensed spectrum through carrier aggregation to increase network capacity, providing faster speeds. It’s designed to exist in harmony with other unlicensed spectrum technologies such as Wi-Fi through a feature called “listen before talk.”
LTE-U is the technology that was developed outside standards bodies that carriers like T-Mobile and Verizon are using to accomplish much the same advantages, but AT&T all along has been emphasizing its desire to go with the standards-developed version. Similarly, it’s been emphasizing the standards path as well with 5G, whereas Verizon has been more aggressive in developing technical specifications through its Verizon 5G Technology Forum (V5GTF) that was formed in late 2015.
Wi-Fi industry stakeholders have expressed more concerns about LTE-U than LAA in part because it was developed outside the usual standards process. For months, the LTE industry and cable and Wi-Fi companies struggled to reach a compromise with the help of the Wi-Fi Alliance, which eventually led to a test plan to ensure fair coexistence in unlicensed spectrum.
AT&T’s filing for further LAA tests seeks a timeline starting Aug. 7 and ending Feb. 7, 2018, during which the operator plans to deploy temporary fixed stations. Although some antennas will extend more than 6 meters above the ground, none will extend more than 6 meters above a building and all antennas will either be installed within a building, or, if installed outdoors, shielded by existing manufactured structures, such as surrounding buildings, so as to prevent any hazard to air navigation, the application says.
"The experimentation will allow AT&T to evaluate performance and determine customer acceptability during the development, design, and pre-production phases of the equipment and will facilitate the eventual widespread deployment of LAA," AT&T told the FCC.
The FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology this past February authorized the first LTE-U and LAA devices in the 5 GHz band—base stations supplied by Nokia and Ericsson. On the device side, the first one to hit the market to support both LTE-U and LAA is the Samsung S8.
Editor's Note: This story was updated July 7 to reflect the FCC's grant of the application.