T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) will be one of the first carriers to deploy Licensed Assisted Access (LAA) in 5 GHz spectrum in 2016.
The operator previously disclosed LAA trials, but it didn't commit to a commercial deployment date until the announcement this week at Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2015.
T-Mobile is teaming up with Qualcomm Technologies (NASDAQ:QCOM) and Alcatel-Lucent to use LTE in the unlicensed spectrum, with trials beginning this year using LTE-U enabled small cells from Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) that are equipped with Qualcomm Technologies' FSM99xx family of small cell system-on-chip (SoC) solutions. Commercial products are expected in the first half of 2016.
"With T-Mobile's commitment to bringing LAA benefits to customers in the near future, we're looking forward to seeing both Alcatel-Lucent's and Qualcomm Technologies' LTE-U demonstrations at Mobile World Congress that show co-existence with Wi-Fi, which is critical for this technology to succeed," said Neville Ray, chief technology officer at T-Mobile. "The LAA ecosystem is coming together with innovative development from numerous partners to enable utilization of the 5GHz unlicensed bands."
As mobile data demand continues to grow for both licensed and unlicensed bands, the overlap and co-existence of Wi-Fi and cellular data become more important for the industry, the companies say. Seamlessly integrating licensed and unlicensed band operation brings the benefits of cellular to unlicensed spectrum and delivers data speeds at rates more than two times faster than LTE alone.
The debate continues, however, on how well LTE will play in the 5 GHz band, where it will share spectrum with unlicensed Wi-Fi.
T-Mobile also has been working on unlicensed LTE with Nokia (NYSE:NOK) and Ericssson (NASDAQ: ERIC).
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