Nokia and the Saudi Telecom Company (STC) have conducted a test of MulteFire technology, which enables LTE to be deployed in unlicensed spectrum bands such as 5GHz.
The last two years has seen a huge upsurge in interest from mobile operators in the possibility of using LTE in unlicensed spectrum, as they look for additional spectrum to meet the growing demand for data.
A number of options are being developed including LTE-U, where LTE runs directly over the 5GHz unlicensed bands, and LAA, where LTE spectrum is combined with Wi-Fi spectrum using LTE-A carrier aggregation to provide more capacity on the downlink (uplink is also being looked at). Another alternative is LWA (LTE + Wi-Fi Link Aggregation) where the LTE data payload is split and some traffic is tunnelled over Wi-Fi and the rest is sent natively over LTE.
MulteFire is the newest option, which is currently being developed by the MulteFire Alliance set up last October. It differs from the others in that it enables LTE technology to be used in unlicensed bands such as 5GHz, but without the need for any licensed LTE anchor spectrum.
The Nokia and STC test, which used Nokia's FlexiZone small cells together with MulteFire software, showed how MulteFire can co-exist with Wi-Fi to deliver the high performance, high speeds and security offered by LTE in a densely populated environment.
MulteFire complements heterogeneous networks (HetNets), which use a mixture of macro and small cell radios, allowing operators to meet the increased connectivity demands of future smart cities and the Internet of Things (IoT).
Neutral Host test: MulteFire allows the delivery of high-speed services across multiple end-user devices regardless of their mobile operator, allowing anyone with a MulteFire device to access data using a MulteFire access point. The test showed up to 120 Mbps of total download and upload throughput.
Co-existence test: Tests showed MulteFire harmoniously co-existing with Wi-Fi when Wi-Fi was turned on in the same frequency and placed very close to a MulteFire access point.
Enhanced Coverage test: The test showed up to 50% better range and up to 2x better coverage in comparison to Wi-Fi.
Nasser Al-Nasser, Senior Vice President, Technology and Operations, STC, said: "We are the first operator in the world to have successfully conducted the test of MulteFire technology with Nokia. This test underpins our commitment to explore and identify the latest technologies that can further boost the overall service experience for our subscribers even as demand continues to grow. MulteFire will allow us to deliver LTE performance with a simplified deployment."
Waseem Al-Marzogi, Head of STC Group Business, Nokia, said: "As one of the founding members of the MulteFire Alliance, Nokia is driving the development of a global technical specification, and this test is a crucial step toward commercialization of the technology. By collaborating with operators like STC, we can develop new ways of utilising spectrum such as 5GHz to meet the network demands of today and tomorrow."