Vodacom has launched a Licensed Assisted Access (LAA) site on its live network at its Midrand campus and demonstrated speeds >650 Mbps using a commercial handset.
This is the first speed test on both a commercial LAA site and device in Africa and is also the fastest speed test ever achieved on a commercial LTE network and device in South Africa.
Vodacom’s LAA site is also believed to be the first time in South Africa where 4 component carrier (4CC) aggregation has been deployed on a live LTE network. The LAA site on Vodacom’s campus is configured to use a single 10 MHz carrier of Vodacom’s licensed 1800 MHz spectrum and 3 additional carriers each of 20 MHz unlicensed 5GHz spectrum. In addition to 4CC carrier aggregation, 4×4 MIMO (Multiple Input Multiple Output) technology was used for the 1800 MHz carrier and 256 QAM (Quadrature Amplitude Modulation) was activated on all carriers.
Using this configuration it was possible to achieve a peak download speed of up to 653Mbps on OOKLA using a commercial Motorola Z2 Force handset which is also considered to be the first commercial LAA device tested in South Africa.
Andries Delport, Vodacom Group’s Chief Technology Officer commented:
“Today’s launch of what we believe to be the continent’s first commercial LAA site and device and the impressive speeds demonstrates that Vodacom continues to lead in technology innovation and enabling new possibilities for our customers. We have managed to launch new technologies such as LAA despite the severe constraints on spectrum that we are facing in the country. Quite crucially, the latest speeds on the LAA network show that the single biggest contributor to mobile network performance is spectrum. Although we have demonstrated impressive LAA speeds using unlicensed spectrum, Vodacom still requires access to new, licensed spectrum for the practical rollout of similar high speed LTE services across the country. Licensed spectrum is the key to making these higher speeds available to all customers as it can be deployed across our extensive outdoor site footprint and is not limited to indoor and other small area deployments as is the case with LAA”.
LAA enables operators such as Vodacom to use unlicensed spectrum while co-existing with Wi-Fi by fair sharing of the unlicensed spectrum using Listen Before Talk (LBT) Technology. Innovative technologies such as LAA enable Vodacom to improve the network capacity and speeds in important indoor hotspot areas, and in the absence of much needed additional licensed spectrum. It is less suited to wide scale coverage on outdoor macro sites due to the poorer propagation characteristics of the unlicensed 5GHz band.
Vodacom will soon begin rolling out LAA to other sites on its live network, starting with important indoor hotspots such as airports, malls and office buildings. The availability and pricing for LAA capable handsets will be communicated as the rollout has progressed.