Vodacom recently launched a Licensed Assisted Access (LAA) site at its Midrand campus, demonstrating the capabilities of the technology.
Vodacom achieved a 653Mbps download speed using a commercial smartphone – a Motorola Z2 Force – which was the fastest speed test ever achieved on a commercial LTE network and device in South Africa.
The LAA site used 4 component carrier aggregation – a single 10MHz carrier of Vodacom’s 1,800MHz spectrum, and an additional 3 carriers, each of 20MHz unlicensed 5GHz spectrum.
4×4 MIMO technology was used for the 1,800MHz carrier and 256 QAM (Quadrature Amplitude Modulation) was activated on all carriers.
Vodacom said it plans to roll out LAA to other sites on its network, starting with airports, malls, and office buildings.
Vodacom Group Chief Technology Officer Andries Delport told MyBroadband that in the absence of additional licensed spectrum, LAA can play a role in providing relief to operators.
This is particularly the case for indoor locations, such as malls and airports.
“The technology is currently designed mainly for indoor applications, and areas that can be targeted are hotspot locations such as airports, malls, and offices,” said Delport.
Devices which support LAA are currently limited, however, and include the Moto Z2 Force and LG V30.
“It is expected that most major smartphone manufacturers will support LAA from the second half of 2018.”
Once smartphones which support LAA roll out, Vodacom will be able to offer download speeds of between 500Mbps-650Mbps using the technology – depending on how many carriers of unlicensed spectrum are being used.
“The upload speed is limited to the licensed portion, in this case the 1,800MHz, of the LAA site. Expected upload speeds can be within 10Mbps-25Mbps,” said Delport.
“LAA average throughputs can also be impacted by co-existing Wi-Fi networks.”
With ICASA and the government failing to release additional spectrum to mobile network operators, LAA is seen as a potential solution for networks to keep up with the huge growth in demand for mobile data – and higher data speeds – from South Africans.