MTN SA, Huawei trial Africa’s first LTE Licensed Assisted Access


MTN SA, in partnership with Huawei, successfully trialed Africa’s first LTE Licensed Assisted Access (LAA) network at a test site in Pretoria, South Africa.

LTE LAA is an evolution of the LTE-Unlicensed mobile technology, which enables LTE to utilise unlicensed spectrum to significantly enhance network capacity.

The pilot of the LTE LAA mobile technology demonstrates MTN’s ongoing commitment to overhaul customer experience by improving the quality of its network.

The LTE LAA trial was completed by aggregating 15MHz of MTN’s licensed 2100MHz spectrum with 40MHz of spectrum located within the unlicensed 5GHz band. This achieved a peak downlink throughput of over 400Mbps as measured by Ookla Speedtest application.

Giovanni Chiarelli, MTN SA Chief Technology and Information Officer says LTE LAA will be a game changer for the industry and will provide customers with an enhanced network experience.

“We have been hamstrung by the lack of access to certain bands of spectrum, but we are pleased with what we can achieve within the limitations we are working under. MTN has committed substantial capital expenditure which will help us to augment our network, and we are looking forward to provide our customers with a world-class network that will vault them into the digital age and enable them to undertake demanding applications,” says Chiarelli.

The lack of critical high-value spectrum has compelled MTN to refarm existing spectrum and combine existing licensed mobile spectrum with unlicensed 5GHz spectrum to increase mobile broadband data speeds.

Due to the use of the unlicensed 5GHz band, which has a very short-range determined by regulated transmit power limits, LTE LAA will be used for in-building LTE deployments.

“Quality indoor coverage has always been a challenge for operators, and we hope that this LTE LAA will considerably address this challenge and ensure that our customers remain connected regardless of their location. This is one of the ways that MTN leads the delivery of a bold, new digital world to its customers,” says Chiareli.

LTE LAA uses the Listen Before Talk (LBT) functionality to enable it to coexist in the same area as Wi-Fi networks without degrading their performance. This functionality is the key difference between LTE LAA and the previous LTE-Unlicensed mobile technology, and is considered critical to ensuring optimal co-existence between Wi-Fi and mobile networks.

Currently, all tests have been conducted on a non-commercial prototype device, as commercial handsets are not widely available. MTN expects that commercial devices that support LTE LAA will be available in the market later this year.


About Author

Thabo Mphahlele is the BizNis Africa Head of Sales and Marketing. Mphahlele was previously MultiChoice Production Support Analyst responsible for developing and monitoring applications. In addition, Mphahlele develops and automates batch scripts and is responsible for the daily infrastructure maintenance at MultiChoice. As a Production Support Analyst, he is responsible for incident analysis solving , developing and constructing business reports for SQL and Oracle and implement change controls for the business. Additional responsibility includes monitoring system performance via SOA, Kibaba (Elasticsearch), H.P BSM, HP Sitescope. Mphahlele is responsible for creating infrastructure performance reports through HP Ops Analytics, monitoring payments via Splunk and in-house built-in tool and disaster recovery simulation and testing. At Nashua Mobile, he was responsible for application development and enhancing the web sites At South West Gauteng College, he was the IT Technician and Network Administrator. During his tenure at Double Digit Media, he was he focused on application and web site development for new and existing clients Mphahlele contributes as a Content Manager for BizNis Africa.

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