MTN completes trial of LTE-Unlicensed in Africa

LAGOS (Sundiata Post) – MTN has run what it is calling the first trial of LTE-Unlicensed, or LTE-U, technology in Africa. The technology uses the same shared spectrum typically used for Wi-Fi. The mobile operator conducted the trial at its flagship store in Morningside in Sandton, Johannesburg with its long-standing technology provider, Ericsson.
The LTE-U trial was done by “aggregating” 10MHz of MTN’s licensed 1,8GHz spectrum and 20MHz in the unlicensed 5GHz band.
“The trial achieved a throughput of more than 200Mbit/s,” MTN said in a statement. The aggregation of licensed and unlicensed spectrum in indoor small cells is a key enabler for 5G. LTE-U is designed to take advantage of the capacity available in the unlicensed 5GHz band spectrum,” explained MTN South Africa acting chief technology officer Krishna Chetty.
“Through aggregating licenced spectrum with unlicensed spectrum, a bigger LTE carrier is created. The ability to aggregate spectrum is one of the primary benefits of LTE.”
MTN said the lack of access to high-value spectrum will force it to combine existing licensed mobile spectrum with unlicensed bands.
Government has failed to publish a policy on so-called high-demand spectrum, leaving communication regulator Icasa, which is ready to begin the process of assigning it, in limbo.
Chetty said LTE-U packs more speed into the same site, which should allow more people to access the network simultaneously.
Henrik Linnet, head of practice for mobile broadband at Ericsson sub-Saharan Africa, said that when LTE-U is fully operational, it will allow MTN to “boost data speeds and coverage in the cellular network and support the growth of indoor traffic, by using the unlicensed 5GHz band already populated by Wi-Fi devices”.
Ericsson said the application is suitable only for in-building LTE deployments due to the characteristics of unlicensed spectrum in the 5GHz band.
“Thus far, our tests to demonstrate LTE-U have only been performed using a non-commercial prototype device, however we expect commercial devices that support LTE-U to be available in the market later this year,” MTN said.
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