According to published reports, Verizon over the last months of 2017 plans to deploy upgrades to many of its cell sites nationwide based on Licensed Assisted Access (LAA) technology. The cells will aggregate channels from several bands to transmit LTE signals that reach near-gigabit speeds.
RCRWireless News reported that Mike Haberman, Verizon’s VP, Network Support, laid out a plan to install radios at selected sites that draw on four bands for a combined total of 45 MHz, including 20 MHz from Verizon’s Advanced Wireless Service (AWS) holdings and three 5 GHZ channels from other sources.
The reports come after Verizon announced last week that it had completed an LAA field test, in cooperation with Ericsson, and Qualcomm Technologies, with transmissions reaching 953 Mbps. While the companies had achieved similar speeds in laboratory conditions, the latest test was under real world conditions over commercial cell sites in Boca Raton, FL.
The Florida test included a combination of three licensed bands and drew spectrum from the unlicensed 5 GHz band. In addition to LAA, it incorporated 4x4 multiple in, multiple out (MIMO) antenna technology and 256 QAM modulation.
“It is exciting to see Gigabit LTE momentum globally and in the U.S., especially as we move closer to a 5G world,” said Mike Finley, president, Qualcomm North America, after the test.
Only two LTE devices commercially available today – the Samsung Galaxy S8 and the Moto Z2 Force Edition – can receive the LAA signals, according the RCRWireless story.
Verizon and equipment vendors have been working to develop LAA over several years. The recent demonstration of near-gigabit speeds represents a significant breakthrough. Just year ago, Verizon said that it had achieved top speeds of 300 Mbps using three-band combinations. Part of the advancement comes from adding a fourth band.
That fourth source, the 5 GHz unlicensed band, has been a point of controversy. Mobile carriers have long been promoting the concept of LTE-Unlicensed (LTE-U) technology, which would provide additional spectrum in areas of congested cellular traffic.
At the same time, groups promoting unlicensed Internet technologies, such as the Wi-Fi Alliance, have opposed LAA systems that include unlicensed bands. However, the FCC has not intervened. It traditionally takes a technology-neutral approach to unlicensed communications as long as devices comply with its Part 15 rules.