Qualcomm Inc. QCOM - the largest manufacturer of wireless semiconductor globally; T-Mobile US, Inc. TMUS - the fourth largest national telecom carrier in the U.S. and Alcatel-Lucent ALU have come together to facilitate the expansion of LTE to unlicensed spectrum.
LTE-U (LTE unlicensed), which is also known as LAA or licensed assisted access, refers to the use of LTE in 5GHz unlicensed spectrum bands. It makes use of a mix of licensed LTE spectrum and the 5GHz frequency band, which is mainly used for Wi-Fi service at present. Moreover, it offers higher capacity and coverage, and enhances user experience through a unified LTE network.
The deployment of LTE in unlicensed spectrum is intended to complement licensed spectrum deployments. Thus, by using carrier aggregation between LTE in licensed and unlicensed spectrum, operators can considerably augment connectivity and deliver data speeds at rates more than two times quicker than LTE.
Notably, Alcatel-Lucent and Qualcomm will carry out LTE-U trials in the second half of this year with the former's small cell portfolio based on Qualcomm's FSM99xx family of small cell system-on-chip (SoC) solutions. Commercial products are planned for shipment in the first half of 2016.
Meanwhile, following its trials of the LTE Advanced capability in 5 GHz, T-Mobile expects to deploy LAA in 2016. This will allow the wireless carrier to be an early adopter of this pioneering technology and boost the capacity of its LTE network.
Further, at this year's Mobile World Congress, Alcatel-Lucent and Qualcomm will hold a demonstration to show carrier aggregation between LTE in licensed and unlicensed spectrum and the technology's conformity with Wi-Fi.
Interestingly, T-Mobile has been working on unlicensed LTE with Nokia Corporation NOK and Ericsson ERIC . Moreover, last week, T-Mobile and Nokia announced that they are jointly developing a pre-standards LTE-U small cell solution for additional LTE capacity, improved network performance and superior customer experience.