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Dec 21 2018

The Multi-Gigabit experience is here and easier to achieve with available spectrum

Did you know there are currently more than 100 user devices available that support Gigabit LTE download speed or higher? All major premium smartphones and tablets today support at least LTE downlink category 16 (1 Gbps) and most premium devices launched during 2018 are already downlink category 18 (1.2 Gbps).

What is premium today will become affordable mainstream sooner rather than later. It’s clear that the multi-gigabit experience is upon us and a business opportunity waiting for operators to address. But do they have the spectrum available?

When we ran our 2 Gbps demonstration at Mobile World Congress 2018, two of the most common comments were: Is this 5G? Ah, this is LTE, so how much spectrum do you use?

At that time we used five component carriers of 20 MHz each, all on licensed spectrum.

Now, here is the news and why I’m writing about peak data rates in LTE.

We have now achieved 2 Gbps with just 60 MHz of licensed spectrum and close to 1.9 Gbps with just 40 MHz of licensed spectrum. We achieved this with an AirScale base station configured for seven component carrier aggregation, matching the LTE multi-gigabit capabilities of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 Mobile Platform, launched in early December.

For 2 Gbps, just three of the component carriers were on licensed bands, while a total of 80 MHz was added from the unlicensed 5 GHz allocation via Licensed-Assisted Access (LAA).

But what if you have only 40 MHz of  licensed LTE spectrum? Well, unfortunately, aggregation of more than 80 MHz of the unlicensed band 46 (5 GHz) is not practical due to output power limitations. So, the answer is to pool in another resource: shared spectrum in band 48, also called CBRS band, a TDD band and a big topic in the USA.

Simply speaking, this shared spectrum is at 3.5 GHz, somewhere between the licensed and unlicensed spectrum and offering better coverage than 5GHz. Pooling band 48 and band 46 carriers into our seven component carrier aggregation scheme can achieve peak data rates of roughly 1.9 Gbps.

While the typical 5G announcements being made today address the demand for enhanced mobile broadband, 5G user devices will also support multi-gigabit LTE.

All of which means that operators can deliver multi-gigabit experiences beyond initial 5G coverage areas, by building carrier aggregation band combinations that match their available spectrum.

Share your thoughts on this topic by joining the Twitter discussion with @nokia and @nokianetworks using #5G #spectrum #GigabitLTE #multigigabit #LTE #multigigabitLTE

About Arne Schaelicke

As part of Nokia’s marketing team for mobile networks, Arne focuses on the transition of 4G networks into the 5G era. He has a Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Karlsruhe in Germany, an MBA from Edinburgh Business School and over 21 years of experience in telecommunications.