MTN South Africa has trialled an LTE Licensed Assisted Access (LTE-LAA) network at a test site in Pretoria, in cooperation with equipment vendor Huawei. The trial was completed by aggregating 15MHz of MTN’s licensed spectrum in the 2100MHz band with 40MHz of spectrum in the unlicensed 5GHz band, achieving a peak downlink throughput of over 400Mbps. LTE-LAA is an evolution of the LTE-Unlicensed (LTE-U) mobile technology, which allows LTE networks to utilise unlicensed spectrum to enhance capacity. The new technology utilises listen-before-talk (LBT) functionality to enable it to coexist in the same area as Wi-Fi networks without degrading their performance. Giovanni Chiarelli, chief technology and information officer at MTN South Africa, said: ‘The lack of critical high-value spectrum has compelled MTN to refarm existing spectrum and combine existing licensed mobile spectrum with unlicensed 5GHz spectrum to increase mobile broadband data speeds … Due to the use of the unlicensed 5GHz band, which has a very short range determined by regulated transmission power limits, LTE LAA will be used for in-building LTE deployments.’ MTN expects that commercial devices that support LTE-LAA will be available in the market later in 2017.
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