Vodacom claims to have showcased speeds of over 650Mbps on a commercial handset on Licensed Assisted Access (LAA) site on its live network at its Midrand campus. The service provider says that this is the fastest speed test on both a commercial LAA site and device in Africa.
A growing number of service providers are experimenting with LAA because it facilitates the use of unlicensed spectrum to improve capacity and speed. While it is not apt for wide-scale outdoor deployment, it is of significance for indoor deployment.Vodacom used four component Carrier Aggregation technology in a live network. It used 10Mhz from 1800Mhz licensed spectrum and three carriers of 20Mhz unlicensed 5Ghz spectrum. Besides, carrier aggregation, 4×4 MIMO (Multiple Input Multiple Output) technology was used for the 1 800MHz carrier and 256QAM (Quadrature Amplitude Modulation) was activated on all carriers.
Vodacom plans to roll out LAA to other sites as well. However, the company will be initially using the technology to improve coverage in locations such as airports, malls and office building.
Africa is facing huge spectrum shortage and this technology will help the service providers to provide better services using the available resources. The telcos have been demanding more spectrum from the Government to be able to launch newer services. It is important to remember that LAA helps only in indoor coverage and not so much in outdoor coverage. Licensed spectrum is a necessity for that.
Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) released an invitation to apply for licences for spectrum in the 700MHz, 800MHz and 2.6GHz bands last year but this process was put on hold until further notice.