Showing posts with label Unlicensed LTE. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Unlicensed LTE. Show all posts

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Second thoughts about LTE-U / LAA

Its been a while since I wrote about LTE-U / LAA on this blog. I have written a few posts on the small cells blog but they seem to be dated as well. For anyone needing a quick refresher on LTE-U / LAA, please head over to IoTforAll or ShareTechNote. This post is not about the technology per se but the overall ecosystem with LTE-U / LAA (and even Multefire) being part of that.

Lets recap the market status quickly. T-Mobile US has already got LTE-U active and LAA was tested recently. SK Telecom achieved 1Gbps in LAA trials with Ericsson. AT&T has decided to skip the non-standard LTE-U and go to standards based LAA. MTN & Huawei have trialled LAA for in-building in South Africa. All these sound good and inspires confidence in the technology however some observations are worrying me.


Couple of years back when LTE-U idea was conceived, followed by LAA, the 5GHz channels were relatively empty. Recently I have started to see that they are all filling up.

Any malls, hotels, service stations or even big buildings I go to, they all seem to be occupied. While supplemental downlink channels are 20MHz each, the Wi-Fi channels could be 20MHz, 40MHz, 80MHz or even 160MHz.

On many occasions I had to switch off my Wi-Fi as the speeds were so poor (due to high number of active users) and go back to using 4G. How will it impact the supplemental downlink in LTE-U / LAA? How will it impact the Wi-Fi users?

On my smartphone, most days I get 30/40Mbps download speeds and it works perfectly fine for all my needs. The only reason we would need higher speeds is to do tethering and use laptops for work, listen to music, play games or watch videos. Most people I know or work with dont require gigabit speeds at the moment.

Once a user that is receiving high speeds data on their device using LTE-U / LAA creates a Wi-Fi hotspot, it may use the same 5GHz channels as the ones that the network is using for supplemental downlink. How do you manage this interference? I am looking forward to discussions on technical fora where users will be asking why their download speeds fall as soon as they switch Wi-Fi hotspot on.

The fact is that in non-dense areas (rural, sub-urban or even general built-up areas), operators do not have to worry about the network being overloaded and can use their licensed spectrum. Nobody is planning to deploy LTE-U / LAA in these areas. In dense and ultra-dense areas, there are many users, many Wi-Fi access points, ad-hoc Wi-Fi networks and many other sources of interference. In theory LTE-U / LAA can help significantly but as there are many sources of interference,its uncertain if it would be a win-win for everyone or just more interference for everyone to deal with.

Further reading: