Making the best use of unlicensed spectrum

Making the best use of unlicensed spectrum.

Mobile networks run on wireless spectrum and its foundation is licensed spectrum. To meet the ever increasing data demand, we need to make the best use of all spectrum types, which requires both Wi-Fi and LTE Unlicensed based technologies. 

Making the best use of unlicensed spectrum

May 19, 2015


Best use of all spectrum requires multiple technologies

LTE Advanced in licensed spectrum provides the best performance with predictable quality of experience and seamless mobility. It is augmented by unlicensed spectrum solutions.


Unlicensed spectrum is used by multiple technologies—which means reduced performance compared to licensed spectrum—but is ideal for local area access, and opportunistic use for mobile broadband. Today’s Wi-Fi solutions continue to evolve for improved performance.


Now we are extending many of LTE’s performance benefits to unlicensed spectrum, providing better capacity, range, security, manageability and mobility, especially for dense deployments.

Best performance by aggregating spectrum

For mobile operators, the best performance is reached by aggregating unlicensed spectrum with a licensed spectrum LTE anchor. The two main solutions are:

  • LTE – Wi-Fi link aggregation, for existing and new carrier Wi-Fi utilizing both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz
  • LTE in unlicensed for new small cells utilizing 5GHz

LTE-U, along with LWA, is supported by the Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 820 processor with X12 LTE, as well as the discrete Snapdragon X12 LTE modem. This is a good example of how multiple technologies are required to make the best use of all spectrum: LTE Advanced carrier aggregation, tri-band Wi-Fi with 802.11n, 802.11ac MU-MIMO and 802.11ad, and now also LTE-U and LWA.

Operator’s assets determine the solution—many will do both

Aggregation with licensed spectrum brings the best out of unlicensed spectrum:

  • Seamless user experience because of the anchor in licensed spectrum
  • Better capacity and coverage compared to separate LTE or Wi-Fi networks
  • Efficiencies of unified network for all spectrum types—such as simplified management

Depending on their assets, operators could employ either LTE – Wi-Fi link aggregation or LTE Unlicensed. However, many will do both as they target different deployment scenarios.

LTE - Wi-Fi Aggregation for non-collocated carrier Wi-Fi

LTE - Wi-Fi link aggregation leverages existing and new carrier Wi-Fi deployments and utilizes both 2.4 and 5 GHz bands. The aggregation is possible even when LTE and Wi-Fi access points are at different physical locations.


LTE – Wi-Fi aggregation allows operators to fully manage Wi-Fi resources through the LTE anchor. This ensures better load balancing between the LTE and Wi-Fi links. Since aggregation is performed at the modem-level, it can adapt to the fast changing signal and loading conditions on both links. LTE – Wi-Fi link aggregation is part of 3GPP Rel 13.

LTE-U/LAA for new unified small cells

For operators deploing new small cells, LTE Unlicensed is the best choice;

  • LTE-U: Based on 3GPP Rel. 10/11/12, it targets early mobile operators deployments in USA, Korea and India, with coexistence tests defined by LTE-U forum
  • LAA (Licensed Assisted Access): Defined in 3GPP Rel. 13, it targets deployments in Europe, Japan, and beyond for regions with specific access procedures

LTE-U and LAA represent the deepest level of aggregation, as they use the same technology, same network and same small cells for both spectrum types. Hence, it will provide the best performance in terms of capacity and user experience through the unified network .

LTE unlicensed is a good neighbor to Wi-Fi

Qualcomm Technologies has demonstrated the LTE-U/Wi-Fi fair coexistence at many global events such as CES and MWC and performed extensive over-the-air testing in the lab and in the field. Extensive Industry collaboration across the Wi-Fi and mobile industries are helping to further refine coexistence specifications and test cases, to ensure that LTE Unlicensed is a good neighbor to Wi-Fi.

LTE Advanced in Unlicensed Spectrum

Feb 18, 2015



Webinar: Best Use of Unlicensed Spectrum

Feb 26, 2015


LTE-WiFi Link Aggregate Ecosystem Demo at MWVC 2015

Apr 13, 2015