Cellular on Unlicensed Bands

Researchers working on next-gen cellular technologies are exploring cellular services on unlicensed 3.5 GHz, 5GHz and even 60 GHz, reports EE Times. Companies like DoCoMo, Huawei, Alcatel-Lucent, Nokia and Qualcomm are looking at using unlicensed spectrum for subscription LTE services because LTE is said to increase capacity and reliability over WiFi technolgoy.

Japanese cellco NTT DOCOMO has successfully demonstrated LTE over the ‘unlicensed’ 5GHz band. The test uses the so-called LAA (Licensed-Assisted Access) on the 5 GHz band.

“Currently, we are aiming to finish the joint experiment by fiscal 2015. The next step will be to develop a technology that will enable LAA and WLAN to efficiently coexist in the same spectrum. We hope LAA will be standardized with the Release 13 LTE which should come out in fiscal 2016,” DoCoMo said.

According to Huawei, operators must think outside-the-box by innovating their business models, and providing innovative solutions, such as LTE video for consumers & enterprises as well as using unlicensed bands for LTE.

Qualcomm is also an advocate of LTE on 5 GHz. With LTE broadcast, a single video channel can multicast to hundreds of users, particularly useful for stadiums or major national events.

Qualcomm’s proposal, dubbed Authorized Shared Access (ASA), is similar to the Licensed Shared Access (LSA) that is being considered among European carriers for the 5 GHz and 3.5 GHz bands.

The FCC proposed a 3.5 GHz sharing arrangement includes three tiers:

  1. Incumbent Access, which would include authorized federal users and grandfathered fixed satellite service licensees
  2. Protected Access, which would include “critical use facilities, such as hospitals, utilities, government facilities, and public-safety entities
  3. General Authorized Access, which would include all other users, including the general public.

The 3.5GHz Interest Group has reached a consensus on a uniform network scheme on Bands 42 & 43 to ensure effective collaboration and sharing. The group suggests that spectrum allocation be no finer than 40MHz per block, so that its roughly 400MHz of bandwidth is utilized effectively.

SoftBank constructed nine 3.5GHz base stations within the Ginza shopping area, making for an average spacing of less than 300 meters.

The network used 80MHz of 3.5GHz bandwidth, and supported an average download speed of 550Mbps (770Mbps peak), enabled by technologies the likes of 4*4 Multiple-Input, Multiple-Output systems (MIMO), carrier aggregation (CA), coordinated multipoint (CoMP) transmission and cloud baseband.

UK Broadband switched on its first TD-LTE system in London back in 2012 using the 3.5GHz band with gear from Huawei. It utilizes over 120MHz of spectrum in Bands 42 and 43, sufficient for six 20MHz channels that can be aggregated for LTE-A when the time comes.

UKB operates a wholesale model and works with partners like Relish to offer commercial services in the businesses, consumer and public sector. UK Broadband is a wholly owned subsidiary of PCCW Limited, the holding company of HKT, Hong Kong’s premier telecommunications provider.

One of the big questions, of course, is whether cellular operators will soon charge for the air that was previously free.

Related Dailywireless articles include; UK Broadband: TD-LTE at 3.5GHz, FCC Opens 3.5 GHz for Shared Access, Qualcomm: Chips for MU-MIMO, Small Cells, Home Gateway, Battle for 3 Dot 5, London Served 3.5GHz Fixed Wireless – with Relish, FCC Boss Wheeler Pushes for 3.5 GHz Spectrum Sharing, FCC Paves Way for 3.5GHz Band Nationwide, FCC Dishes Dirt, Talks Up 3.5 GHz, FCC Limits Dish on LTE Terrestrial Spectrum, Dish: On the Move, Dish and Sprint Battle over PCS band Extension, FCC Approves 2.3 GHz for AT&T, AT&T Likely to Get 2.3 GHz, Sprint’s Dish Compromise, MetroPCS Merges with T-Mobile USA, T-Mobile Gets AWS Spectrum from Breakup, FirstNet: The Asymetrical Threat, Spectrum War: Unlicensed, Shared and Auctioned, White Spaces: Nationwide by Mid January, FCC: TV Auction in 2014, Genachowski Lobbies for Unlicensed White Spaces, Universal Service Reform Passed

Posted by Sam Churchill on .

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