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NSN and Qualcomm bring ASA to life, opening up new spectrum

This blog is by Karl-Josef Friederichs at Nokia Solutions and Networks.
Twitter: @NSNtweets


Harmonized spectrum is the prime real estate for mobile broadband today. In order to cope with the accelerated traffic increase over the next years, accessing large amounts of new spectrum will be key. Network operators will need new spectrum allocations and new ways of utilizing spectrum more efficiently.

This is where Authorized Shared Access (ASA) comes in. ASA offers a complementary licensing scheme that allows the on-demand use of harmonized spectrum whenever and wherever it is not occupied by a primary (incumbent) spectrum owner, such as public institutions.

This generates business benefits for both parties:

• Incumbent spectrum holders, (i.e. public sector companies) can either monetize idle spectrum or explore other forms of compensation such as free or discounted network services

• Likewise, mobile operators benefit from additional high quality spectrum, which facilitates low-cost capacity expansion

Here’s how it works: ASA leverages LTE technologies by simply adding a Spectrum Repository and an ASA Controller to the mobile operator’s network, which controls the usage of the ASA spectrum.

Building on our pioneering ASA joint demo presented at MWC 2013, Qualcomm and NSN joined forces at MWC 2014 to demonstrate an ASA implementation on our Flexi BS together with Qualcomm end-user devices featuring real-time services.

The ASA demo in a nutshell

The demo set-up comprises several Qualcomm LTE terminals connected to an NSN LTE Flexi base station, all embedded into a software simulation of ASA with multi-operator LTE networks controlled by a Spectrum Repository.


The software simulation emulates two operator networks with the corresponding ASA Controller entities and an ASA Repository. Each network allows for the operation of two LTE carriers – a dedicated carrier owned by the operator and the ASA carrier owned by the incumbent spectrum holder. Spectrum sharing in terms of location and time is organized between the two operators and the incumbent spectrum holder via the ASA Repository. The demo illustrates the interworking between the ASA Repository – the ASA Controller(s) and the Radio Access Network(s) of the two operators – and depicts the capacity increase of the MNO networks as well as the throughput gain for end users.

The hardware set up features a dual-carrier mobile base station operating at 2.6 GHz FDD and 2.3 GHz TDD, including core emulation and application servers and several LTE terminals.

The demo was a very popular draw at MWC 2014, attracting representatives from regulatory authorities, standardization bodies, telecom operators, vendors, press and other stakeholders.

Benefits to battle the spectrum crunch

In addition to highlighting the technical viability of the ASA concept, the demo also proves how flexible the solution is. Access to the ASA spectrum by the base station and the end-user devices can be fully controlled through the repository via the ASA controllers. Thus the incumbent spectrum owner can release his ASA spectrum to a mobile operator or initiate evacuation at any time, according to the needs.

On the operator side, the expected increase in sustained capacity and peak data rates has clearly been demonstrated via throughput measurements. Moreover, FDD/TDD handovers between the dedicated and the ASA frequency carrier work very well without sacrificing the end-user experience. Service continuity has also been proven for sensitive VoLTE applications.

The demo represents the next milestone towards achieving commercial availability of ASA during the next few years, when it will truly be needed. The additional 100 MHz of spectrum at 2.3 GHz  that ASA can free up for mobile broadband use will go a long way in solving European operators’ impending spectrum crunch.

To learn more on ASA, please also see:

Our new whitepaper on optimizing spectrum utilization and our latest Future Works news.

To share your thoughts on the topic, join the discussion with @NSNtweets using #FutureWorks #Innovation #TechnologyVision2020 #NSNperformance.