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LTE-Unlicensed (LTE-U/LAA): What It Is and Why You Should Be Using It

Worldwide, carriers are looking for solutions to cope up with the ever growing demand of mobile data. While Wi-Fi accounts for more than half of the traffic on mobile devices, carriers have traditionally used Wi-Fi for cellular data offload for residential, enterprise and hotspots.

Due to the carrier aggregation capability in LTE, carriers want to expand the usage of unlicensed spectrum with that of licensed. Using LTE in the unlicensed band increases spectral efficiency and capacity while maintaining the efficacy of Wi-Fi networks. The LTE unlicensed type LTE-LAA can be universally used as it supports Listen before Talk (LBT) and currently this flavor of LTE unlicensed is being standardized by the 3GPP. The support of LBT ensures fair co-existence with existing Wi-Fi networks. Even though support of LBT in LTE unlicensed will meet the regulatory requirements for LTE-LAA but it may still be disputed for fairness by the Wi-Fi alliance. This is the prime reason that all parties have agreed to a common set of test suites which will guarantee the fairness of unlicensed 5GHz band usage.

The key driver for LTE-U adoption is its performance advantage over Wi-Fi as well as the ease to implement on the network side as it is a special case of carrier aggregation which is supported in LTE. LTE-U provides a more robust and seamless mobile broadband experience with better coverage and faster download speeds. The use of LTE unlicensed together with the licensed band operation brings a major capacity boost from the unlicensed band while still ensuring end user quality of service.

Click here to download the LTE-U Whitepaper. 

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