T-Mobile announced that it will begin deploying the LAA (Licensed Assisted Access) technology to its small cells and base stations in the first quarter of 2018. This technology utilizes the unlicensed 5GHz frequency to increase the data speeds of an LTE network. LAA, unlike LTE-U, uses the "listen before talk" principle, checking if there is another device transmitting on the same radio frequency before a small cell or base station uses it. This ensures that LAA equipment will not interfere with Wi-Fi networks which also use the same frequency. Another key difference between the two technologies is LAA's ability to aggregate unlicensed and licensed frequencies, which in turn further boosts downlink speeds of a given wireless carrier's network.
T-Mobile mentioned that it will roll out software upgrades to its customers' smartphones so that its subscribers can start taking advantage of the upcoming tech. This software update will roll out to handsets that already support LTE-U, according to the third largest mobile service provider in the United States. It will implement the new technology into its small cells and will install additional base stations in crowded areas like malls, stadiums, and similar locations. However, the rollout also means that the carrier will temporarily pause the deployment of LTE-U. The firm started deploying LTE-U earlier this year, and it initially planned to conduct testing of the feature within the next few years. According to T-Mobile, it may take a year or two before the deployment of LTE-U resumes since the carrier has to make sure that the technology aligns with the standards set by 3GPP, the very same ones that are yet to be completely defined.
The carrier also announced that it will start installing modular cell solutions in other areas soon. The upcoming service is connected to the carrier's backbone through a fiber optic cable and can aggregate 60MHz of unlicensed frequency and 40MHz of licensed frequency from its current PCS and AWS spectrum licenses. T-Mobile's solution allows the carrier to adopt and fulfill the aesthetic requirements set by local governments, which is one of the biggest hurdles that slow down the deployment of small cells in many locations.