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MTN and Ericsson lead the way with first LTE-U network

To future proof its business, MTN SA together with Ericsson has successfully trialled LTE-Unlicensed (LTE-U) at MTN’s flagship channel store in Morningside, Johannesburg. LTE-U is a mobile technology innovation that enables higher data speeds, which increase network capacity and significantly enhance customer experience.

This is the first LTE-U trial in Africa, which demonstrates MTN’s constant drive towards introducing innovative technologies to help improve its network quality experience.

The LTE-U trial was completed by aggregating 10MHz of MTN’s licensed 1800MHz spectrum and 20MHz within the unlicensed 5GHz band. The trial achieved a throughput of more than 200Mbps. The aggregation of licensed and unlicensed spectrum in indoor small cells is a key enabler for 5G.

Krishna Chetty, Acting Chief Technology Officer, MTN South Africa says: “This trial supports MTN’s strategy to drive sustainable growth by driving growth in voice, while developing new opportunities in data, enterprise, financial services and content. This innovation shows that MTN is within the cutting edge of world developments.”

“LTE-U is designed to take advantage of the capacity available in the unlicensed 5GHz band spectrum. Through aggregating licenced spectrum with unlicensed spectrum a bigger LTE carrier is created. The ability to aggregate spectrum is one of the primary benefits of LTE. Using this technology, MTN is able to combine its LTE spectrum with portions of the 5GHz spectrum band, to enable LTE- Unlicensed.

“The lack of critical high value spectrum has compelled MTN to combine existing licensed mobile spectrum with unlicensed 5GHz spectrum to cater for the rollout of new generation networks such as LTE-U.”

Chetty says LTE-U will offer MTN’s customers a great network experience because it packs more speed into the same site, which should allow more people to access the network simultaneously, while improving the overall customer experience.

Henrik Linnet, Head of Practice Mobile Broadband, Ericsson Sub-Saharan Africa says: “We are very excited to be trialing LTE-U with MTN in South Africa. This solution when fully operational will allow MTN to boost data speeds and coverage in the cellular network and support the growth of indoor traffic, by using the unlicensed 5 GHz band already populated by Wi-Fi devices.

“This is the first LTE-U trial and first enhanced CSAT (Carrier Sensing Adaptive Transmission) functionality demonstrated in Africa. Through this, we demonstrated that LTE is a good neighbor to Wi-Fi.  We are proud to have teamed up with our longstanding partner to demonstrate this service in South Africa on the way to future 5G deployments.”

This application is currently suitable for in-building LTE deployments, due to the characteristics of unlicensed spectrum in the 5 GHz band, meaning that where there is dedicated in building MTN LTE coverage, one can expect great data speeds.

Thus far, our tests to demonstrate LTE-U have only been performed using a non-commercial prototype device, however we expect commercial devices that support LTE-U to be available in the market later this year. In order to have firsthand experience, customers are welcome to visit the MTN store in Morningside.

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