A test conducted by PCMag shows that the Licensed Assisted Access technology has been effective in improving the download speeds achieved on the LTE network of American carrier AT&T. The test was conducted using a retail smartphone, the Samsung Galaxy S9, and the download and upload speeds were then repeatedly measured in a number of locations across Chicago where small cells that support LAA are located, including Kinzie and Dearborn, Merchandise Mart, and two locations in the South Loop area. The publication noted that in the South Loop area, they were able to obtain a maximum download speed of 537Mbps. Meanwhile, an average download speed of 273Mbps was recorded in Kinzie and Dearborn, and an average download speed of 424Mbps was achieved in the Merchandise Mart.
The relatively high download speeds were made possible through leveraging LAA. The LAA technology allows network operators to aggregate unlicensed spectrum with licensed bands to increase the amount of spectrum that they can utilize, which in turn results in improved download speeds. For example, in Chicago, AT&T aggregated 15MHz of LTE Band 2 with 60MHz of unlicensed spectrum to boost the download speeds on the network. Given the very short range of the 5GHz frequency that's crucial for the solution, the technology will likely be deployed only in urban areas where there is a larger need for increased network capacity. However, a key limitation of this technology is its inability to boost upload data speeds, since it can only be transmitted using licensed spectrum.
Aside from Chicago, AT&T has already deployed LAA in Indianapolis, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. In addition, 24 more cities across the United States will also receive LAA within the year. However, users will obviously have to own handsets that support LAA in order to take advantage of the technology. Those that are compatible with the solution include the Samsung Galaxy S9, Galaxy S8, Galaxy Note 8, LG V30, and the Moto Z2 Force. Aside from AT&T, T-Mobile has also started deploying LAA, with the network operator aggregating 60MHz of unlicensed spectrum and 40MHz from its PCS and AWS-licensed frequency holdings.