Ericsson adds unlicensed spectrum support to small cells

Swedish network giant Ericsson continued its small cell crusade with the announcement of license assisted access (LAA) to its small cell portfolio. This LTE technology allows users to tap into unlicensed spectrum, typically used by wifi, to augment their cellular performance. spoke to  Christian Hedelin, Head of Strategy, Radio Business Unit at Ericsson. “We will allow consumers to benefit from the coverage, performance and quality of service aspect of licensed spectrum, but will add capacity and speed by also offering LTE capabilities over unlicensed spectrum,” he said. “There are still white spots in the user experience and performance, and those are typically in a high-density user environment. This solution will target that user demand.”

This LAA capability is another string to the Ericsson small cell bow, following the launch of the RBS 6402 picocell, focused on small office buildings, and the announcement of India’s Ozone as the first customer for its small cell as-a-service offering.

In the latter case Ericsson is taking on the inventory and implementation risk for its customer, typically an operator. In this case it’s rolling out 30,000 wifi access points across India on behalf of Ozone. “This is a new model where we can support operators,” Patrik Jacobson, Head of Network Sharing at Ericsson Global Services, told “Typically we take everything from planning, design, optimisation, maintenance and we provide the network.”

The LAA capability will be introduced into small cells such as the 6402, but won’t be making an appearance until later in the year. Among the operators that will be trialling it will be T-Mobile US. “There’s approximately 550 MHz of underutilized spectrum in the 5 GHz UNII band and LAA is one of the technologies we plan to develop and use in our continuing efforts to provide our customers with superior network performance,” said Neville Ray, CTO of T-Mobile US.

Ericsson is keen to stress that combining licensed and unlicensed spectrum is a key milestone on the road to 5G and has wasted little time in claiming first mover advantage. “One of the great things about LAA is its ‘rising tide’ effect, increasing system capacity and making way for better service to all users in the area, whether they have an LAA-enabled device, or are using Wi-Fi or cellular access,” said Ericsson Head of Radio Product Management, Thomas Norén.

Here’s a helpful video to further help you get your head around the concept.


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  1. Avatar Kit Kilgour 05/01/2015 @ 6:40 pm

    As 3GPP is currently studying LAA in Release 13 (close, Feb 2016), this statement seems to imply that both the operator (TMO-US) and vendor will be offering pre-standard solutions – as will the handset vendor

  2. Avatar Kevin Holley 06/01/2015 @ 10:10 am

    “white spots” is the wrong term. “White Hot” is very hot, so “white spot” implies “hot spot” – not what was intended. Why not use “black spot” which is the right term?

  3. Avatar Claus Hetting 07/01/2015 @ 12:21 pm

    There’s so much to comment on here, I hardly know where to start but here it goes:
    1 – This is not 5G. There is no 5G because there is no 5G standard yet at all. So ‘on the road to 5G’ is to me a bizarre statement.
    2 – LAA will most certainly interfere with Wi-Fi if the IEEE and Wi-Fi standards are not closely coordinated. I can’t see any benefit for the Wi-Fi industry to want to align standards with LTE. In conclusion: I can’t see this working.
    3 – I frankly don’t believe that the mobile industry is interested in ‘fair sharing’ with Wi-Fi. It is of no benefit to the mobile industry at all. There’s quite a lot of evidence that the sharing will not be fair because Wi-Fi has exponential backoff, LAA doesn’t and probably never will.
    4 – If LAA was implemented with exponential backoff it would be largely equivalent to Wi-Fi. Which then in turn questions why we need LAA at all.
    5 – Then there’s economics: A 802.11ac carrier grade access point costs 1kUSD installed. This device costs 2kUSD and add to this at least the equivalent amount in core network support, then add SW fees, deployment, etc. etc.
    6 – You can do all the mobile service fabric integration you need on Wi-Fi already today – at a fraction of the LTE cost including Wi-Fi calling, data service offload, policy enforcement, core network routing, etc. etc. etc.
    In short: This product is a technical solution trying to fix something that has long since been fixed by carrier Wi-Fi.

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