Vodacom has launched a commercial LTE-Unlicensed, or LTE-U, site using unlicensed spectrum in the 5,8GHz band in a section of Sandton City, a large shopping centre in Johannesburg.
However, even though it’s commercially available, users wanting to try it shouldn’t get too excited just yet as commercial handsets and routers able to take advantage of the technology are only expected in the market later this year.
The size of the deployment is also tiny, only available in the forecourt outside Checkers Hyper at the Sandton mall.
Vodacom has also deployed the technology at its campus in Midrand to showcase what it is capable of. In the controlled test environment at the campus, using a prototype handset, Vodacom was able to demonstrate a 217Mbit/s peak download speed (and a ping of 31ms) to TechCentral.
The operator conducted the test using 10MHz of licensed spectrum at 1,8GHz coupled with two carriers, each 20MHz, in the unlicensed 5,8GHz band. “We have gone as high as 245Mbit/s in this building,” said Nicholas Naidu, executive head of access network engineering.
Vodacom partnered with Huawei to roll out the technology.
Naidu said that LTE-U is still in its infancy, and once smartphones and mobile broadband routers start to permeate the market, Vodacom will step up its roll-out of infrastructure.
The move to launch LTE-U comes as Vodacom and other mobile operators grow increasingly impatient at delays by government in finalising a policy on how so-called “high-demand spectrum” for 4G/LTE broadband will be allocated.
There are worries among Wi-Fi providers that mobile operators could end up flooding unlicensed spectrum bands when deploying LTE-U. But Naidu said the intention is to co-exist in harmony with Wi-Fi technology and not degrade Wi-Fi services.
He said the technology is also only suitable for small cell sites, such as in shopping centres, airports and business premises. It is not likely to be used for outdoor coverage over large areas.
Communications regulator Icasa places a limit on maximum transmitter power output in the 5,8GHz band of 1W. Vodacom said it is using just 10mW at Sandton City. — © 2016 NewsCentral Media