Vodacom and Huawei hit 1 Gbps in LAA trial

Huawei and Vodacom South Africa said they hit peak download speeds of over 1 Gbps by aggregating LTE in both licensed and unlicensed bands, claiming a first for the African market.

The trial used the Huawei LampSite technology and aggregated three blocks of licensed and unlicensed spectrum to achieve the high speeds. The companies also used a test mobile device based on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor and said commercial mobile devices are expected to be released by manufacturers towards the second half of the year.

The trial was based on an evolution of LTE technology known as license assisted access, which will be finalised in the 3GPP Release 13 specifications in 2016. LAA is also known as LTE-Unlicensed (LTE-U) and utilises unlicensed spectrum typically in the 5 GHz band to provide additional radio spectrum.

Sister publication FierceWirelessTech also reported in May that Vodacom launched a commercial LTE-U site using unlicensed spectrum in the 5.8 GHz band in a very small section of Sandton City, a large shopping centre in Johannesburg. Again, handsets and routers still need to become available before users can make use of the service.

Vendors and operators have hailed LAA or LTE-U as a way to deploy LTE in unlicensed as well as licensed spectrum and thus boost data download speeds and deal with rapidly growing data usage. However, the Wi-Fi world has expressed fears about the impact such technology could have on unlicensed spectrum typically used for Wi-Fi services.

In November last year Vodafone said it became the first network operator in the world to successfully trial LTE carrier aggregation on a live network using both licensed and unlicensed spectrum. The operator used technology from Ericsson and Qualcomm for the trial.

Importantly, Vodafone noted that the trial demonstrated that "LTE achieved good co-existence with the existing Wi-Fi system." The operator stressed that it is committed to developing LAA within the 3GPP standards process and has no plans to roll out the technology in Europe until that process is concluded.

For more:
- see the Huawei release

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