License Assisted Access (LAA) is the term in 3GPP to potentially use the 5 GHz band, which is mostly used by Wifi networks today for LTE in the future. It looks like 3GPP has made a jump forward on the topic as the band has received a 3GPP band number in TS 36.101. It’s already in 3GPP Release 13 but a number of extensions in 3GPP Release 14 make it a special kicker.
While I’m personally not a big fan of 3GPP going after the frequency domain which has so far been mostly used by Wifi only (and perhaps weather radar…) I can understand why this is such an appealing territory: 700+ MHz of beach front property between 5150 and 5925 MHz.
There isn’t any licensed band in use today that offers bandwidth even close to that number. The downside is of course that transmit power is limited to a few milliwatts, i.e. far less than the 20 watts or so that are used today in licensed bands per carrier. In other words, I don’t have to be overly concerned that a 5 GHz LTE LAA transmitter in a light pole around the corner will interfere with my 5 GHz Wifi at home. Things might be different in other places such as hotels, shopping malls, airports, train stations and other public places for which LAA probably makes the most sense and directly competes with 5 GHz Wifi deployed in such areas.
By the way, the band number that has been assigned to the 5 GHz band in 3GPP is 46. You can have a look in Release 13 of 36.101 or head over to this Wikipedia page that has an interesting LTE band overview as well.
In addition, interesting Carrier Aggregation combinations have now been specified in 3GPP Release 14 (here’s an interesting link on this) and there is something for several parts of the world already: While network operators in the US will be happy about CA combinations such as 2A-46D or 4A-46D, CA combinations for European operators are for example 3A-46D and 3C-46D. 3C-46D (xC-xD) is the combination of 2*20 MHz in the 1800 MHz (licensed band) and 3*20 MHz in the 5 GHz unlicensed band for a total of 100 MHz of downlink bandwidth. xA-xD combinations are 20+60 MHz for a total of 80 MHz.
So are we going to see this in the real world? Only time will tell…