AT&T said it has rolled out commercial LTE-Licensed Assisted Access (LAA) technologies in select parts of downtown Indianapolis, with plans to expand LAA in more areas of the downtown by the end of this year.
For those keeping track, this is AT&T’s first commercial deployment of LAA, which is considered a key enabler for operators to offer Gigabit-class speeds and a stepping stone to 5G.
“Indianapolis is the first city where we have started commercial deployment of LTE-LAA technology,” AT&T spokesman Jeff Kobs told FierceWirelessTech. “We plan to expand LTE-LAA deployments to additional cities in the coming weeks.”
Customers using the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 in select areas within Indianapolis will be able to take advantage of new technology.
Earlier this year, AT&T and Ericsson conducted a live LAA field trial in downtown San Francisco that produced speeds of more than 750 Mbps, but AT&T said it’s also observed actual peak wireless speeds of 979 Mbps.
Indianapolis is one of AT&T’s “5G Evolution” markets where it’s offering 256 QAM, 4x4 MIMO and 3-way carrier aggregation. Austin, Texas, is another “5G Evolution” market, and AT&T just announced Minneapolis earlier this week.
AT&T took a different path to LAA than its operator counterparts. Both Verizon and T-Mobile aggressively pursued LTE-U as a precursor to LAA. Sprint has said it can reach Gigabit-class speeds without tapping into unlicensed spectrum.
AT&T considered LTE-U but the standards for LAA were progressing such that it didn’t see the need to deploy LTE-U, which is the more controversial of the two technologies that tap into unlicensed spectrum. Gordon Mansfield, vice president of RAN and Device Design at AT&T, told FierceWirelessTech this past summer that when he and his team looked at when the LAA standards were going to be available versus LTE-U, the time difference between the two appeared to be minimal. Plus, LAA has the full-blown listen-before-talk capabilities.
Last week, T-Mobile revealed that it’s rolling out LAA this year, with a software update to a small number of LTE-U base stations that already have been deployed this year.
Earlier this year, the “Un-carrier” pursued the idea of building a novel modular cell solution that allows it to use the two licensed AWS and PCS bands, pairing 40 megahertz of licensed spectrum with 60 megahertz of unlicensed spectrum, creating 100 megahertz for a little box that’s fiber-fed, according to Mark McDiarmid, VP of network engineering at T-Mobile.
The operator expects to use that product to meet the needs of jurisdictions as well as its own need for a modular solution that doesn’t require going back to get new infrastructure approved.