T-Mobile has officially wrapped up the first successful field test of LAA, an LTE technology that extends LTE-U to the 5GHz spectrum bands. In testing, T-Mobile managed to pull down 741Mbps in download speed using 80MHz of unlicensed spectrum on top of the company’s normal offerings. T-Mobile did not state whether the upload speeds were similar, whether the new technology affected server ping times, or what mobile device was used for testing. This means that a dedicated testing rig of some sort was likely used, rather than a consumer mobile device. The test took place in Los Angeles, California.
This test provides a good picture of what to expect when LTE-U and the full measure of T-Mobile’s vast spectrum portfolio are rolled out into all service areas in the near future. For the time being, LTE-U is limited to a small selection of markets, such as the Simi Valley area of California, and Las Vegas, Nevada. In these areas, LTE-U is currently limited in the spectrum it can use, which is where LAA comes in. LTE-U, and by extension LAA, allows T-Mobile’s many network features to work in concert with the carrier’s own licensed spectrum and unlicensed spectrum that’s floating about for general use. While LTE-U doesn’t present many challenges as far as integration with other network services, the potential for interference and crosstalk with other users of the unlicensed spectrum is very real, making it extremely difficult and important to implement protections that will keep that from happening.
While T-Mobile is hard at work expanding LTE-U, the company is also expanding network offerings that use its own spectrum. It has already begun field tests and early deployment of 600MHz area spectrum that it won from the FCC’s incentive auction that concluded earlier in the year, and has been conducting fairly successful early 5G testing using both high and low band spectrum. Thus far, T-Mobile has managed to burst through the gigabit barrier in 5G testing and plans to roll the technology out to their entire service area. As the 5G network goes live, T-Mobile hopes to continue expanding and enriching their LTE network, making it a reliable fallback for when customers cannot reach a 5G connection.