At a concert? Watch the smart phone flashes go off when the band steps up on stage. At a football game? Look around you to see thousands of fans capture crucial moments. At a tourist spot? There is the ubiquitous selfie addict aiming for a quick social media update. What’s common to all of them? They are all contributing to the ever-increasing wireless data usage.
Mobile data traffic today is exploding like never before. With over 80% of Americans walking around with a smartphone in their hand, the total data generated by them has increased substantially to create what seems like an insatiable appetite for more content, more sophisticated phones, and newer applications and services. All of this is driving capacity constraints on current networks that leverage licensed spectrum.
However, the situation may not be as drastic as it seems. Shorter-range transmitters and receivers that use dedicated cellular frequencies, or small cells, are available to fill the gaps in coverage. There is the option of tapping the potential of 5GHz unlicensed spectrum with LTE, which is readily available. Using carrier aggregation across unlicensed and licensed spectrum offers better spectral efficiency than current unlicensed technologies (such as Wi-Fi). It also opens up the ability to serve more users and provide better throughput, without the pinch of an additional spectrum cost. The quality of service, as well as security, at the user’s end are ensured by usage of LTE-based technology.
While multiple LTE-based unlicensed solutions are available today, LTE-LAA (LTE Licensed Assisted Access) offers a favorable path to “Gigabit LTE” and 5G. It complies with the 3GPP standards while meeting regulatory requirements of Listen Before Talk (LBT) for 5GHz unlicensed band operation. It exhibits a fair coexistence with Wi-Fi without any need for specific coordination. In fact, in many cases LTE-LAA has demonstrated better coexistence between LTE and Wi-Fi than Wi-Fi access points with each other. Most of all, it is tried and tested with 21 active trials and one commercial deployment as of January 2018. Many U.S. operators have announced their plans to roll out LAA in 2018. According to Mobile Experts, LAA small cells will contribute more than 50% of the carrier unlicensed/shared access point revenue by 2022.
LAA brings with it a host of benefits for both consumers and operators. Users get an impressive 2x download speed over existing licensed LTE small cells. This means that in addition to the enjoyment of accessing content from their mobile devices, they can download a video faster, get off the network sooner, freeing up network for someone else to use. It provides security while ensuring the performance of existing Wi-Fi access points. Along with seamless indoor and outdoor mobility, it also helps avoid the ever-frustrating dropped call.
For the network operators, LTE-LAA offers unmatched efficiencies. According to Mobile Experts, when compared to traditional small cell using licensed spectrum, LAA small cells slash the unit cost of delivering a Gigabyte (cost per GB) by 50%. There is also an 80% improvement in the effective cell capacity, which is a significant gain on what is offered by the traditional small cells. What’s more, it avoids the need to upgrade any of the Evolved Packet Core (EPC) elements and simplifies network management across licensed and unlicensed access networks.
Samsung LAA Small Cells are a step towards innovating cost-effective small cell solutions using LTE technology, while offering a multi spectrum band solution.
Mobile connectivity needs are ever increasing and what may appear plenty today will certainly not be enough in the days to come. Samsung is enabling new options for network operators to address this demand through Samsung LAA Small Cells.
- GSA LTE Unlicensed Report, February 2018
- Mobile Experts, LTE Unlicensed Report, 2017