Licensed Assisted Access (LAA)

Extending LTE to unlicensed spectrum globally – LAA.

Licensed Assisted Access (LAA) is introduced in 3GPP release 13 as part of LTE Advanced Pro. It uses carrier aggregation in the downlink to combine LTE in unlicensed spectrum (5 GHz) with LTE in the licensed band. This aggregation of spectrum provides for a fatter pipe with faster data rates and more responsive user experience. For example, a mobile operator using LAA can support Gigabit Class LTE with as little as 20 MHz of licensed spectrum. By maintaining a persistent anchor in the license spectrum that carries all of the control and signaling information, the user experience is both seamless and reliable.

World’s first over-the-air LAA trial.

In a joint effort, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and Deutsche Telekom conducted the world’s first over-the-air LAA trial during November 2015 in Nuremberg, Germany, which is a big milestone towards commercial deployment. A wide range of test cases were completed: indoor and outdoor, different combinations of LAA/LWA/Wi-Fi, single and multiple users – both stationary and mobile, handover between cells, and a range of radio conditions. The trial results clearly demonstrated:


Fair co-existence of LAA with Wi-Fi over all test cases

Coverage & capacity benefits of LAA over Wi-Fi1

Seamless mobility of both LAA and LWA

Supporting all regions.

LAA provides the same powerful benefits as LTE-U from aggregating LTE in both licensed and unlicensed spectrum with the additional benefit that LAA meets global regulations. LTE-U was introduced to address time-to-market needs in specific regions such as USA, India and Korea.
LAA includes “Listen Before Talk” (LBT) suitable for global deployment, including EU and Japan. Both LAA and LTE-U ensures fair co-existence with Wi-Fi.

Fair Wi-Fi Coexistence – A Key Design Principle in LAA.

Fair Wi-Fi coexistence is a key principle in LAA. This is accomplished by dynamically selecting clear channels in 5 GHz to avoid Wi-Fi users. If there is no clear channel available, LAA will share a channel fairly with others. This is accomplished by a feature called Listen Before Talk (LBT). LBT will be used by all technologies in unlicensed spectrum to ensure fair coexistence globally.

LAA ready for commercial deployment in the United States & globally.

Standardized by 3GPP, using LBT, and approved by FCC.

Standardized by 3GPP as part of LTE Advanced Pro.

LAA is part of 3GPP Release 13, which was frozen in Mar. 2016.

Listen-before-talk (LBT) ensures fair sharing.

LBT is a standardized method that ensures fair spectrum sharing; applies to both LAA, eLAA, MulteFire, and Wi-Fi in the next release of ETSI EN 301 893.

FCC granted first equipment certification

In Sept. 2016, FCC granted an equipment authorization to Qualcomm Technologies & is granting others (see FCC blog)



Benefiting both users and operators

Better User Experiences

For the end-users, LAA offers higher bandwidth through carrier aggregation, same excellent reliability as in licensed spectrum, and a seamless experience when moving in and out of small cell coverage, which together results in an overall better user experience.

  • Higher bandwidth with Gigabit class LTE speeds from combining spectrum
  • Reliability from licensed spectrum
  • Seamless from anchor in licensed spectrum

Cost Efficient Networks

For the mobile operator, LAA offers enhanced capacity and coverage over Wi-Fi, a common unified network that simplifies management, and future-proofing towards hyper-dense, self organizing networks, which means cost savings in terms of deployment and operation.

  • Enhanced coverage & capacity in unlicensed from using LTE technology
  • Unified LTE network in all spectrum
  • Future-proof from LTE evolution

LAA evolution

LAA will enjoy 3GPP's cadence of regular enhancements and the subsequent 3GPP release 14 will introduce enhanced LAA (eLAA). The LTE-U specification enables a migration to LAA, which is validated enabled by Qualcomm Technologies’ FSM SoC supporting a software upgrade path from LTE-U towards LAA.


Here are two important LAA features expected in eLAA and beyond:

  1. Spectrum aggregation also in the uplink, providing the end-user with better upload experience and video call quality.
  2. “Dual connectivity” supporting spectrum aggregation between macro and small-cells.

LAA enables Gigabit class LTE for more operators globally.

Introducing the Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ X16 LTE modem — the world’s first announced LTE modem with support for Gigabit class LTE and LAA/LTE-U. By aggregating both licensed and unlicensed spectrum using LAA/LTE-U, mobile operators with as little as one block of 20 MHz licensed spectrum can deploy Gigabit Class LTE.

Qualcomm Snapdragon is a product of Qualcomm Technologies, Inc.


Unlicensed Spectrum

Aug 3, 2017


eLAA capacity and co-existence demo at MWC 2016

Apr 27, 2016


eLAA coverage demo at MWC 2016

Apr 27, 2016


Light Reading Interview: Evolving LAA and introducing MulteFire at MWC 2016

Mar 17, 2016


Progress on Licensed-Assisted Access (LAA) and Its Relationship to LTE-U and MulteFire

Apr 11, 2016


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