Unlicensed spectrum creates opportunity for carriers to add capacity and for enterprises to deploy private LTE networks

For both voice and data connectivity, as well as support for internet of things-type devices, operators are working to keep up with insatiable and steadily-increasing demand for capacity. One inherent limitation is the availability of licensed spectrum. This paradigm has put unlicensed spectrum, particularly in the 5 GHz band that has long supported Wi-Fi, into the spotlight.

To deliver gigabit LTE networks, based on the LTE Advanced Pro specification, service providers use Licensed Assisted Access (LAA) to aggregate licensed and unlicensed component carriers to create a bigger, faster data pipe. The 5 GHz band is also the providence of MulteFire, a technology that uses only unlicensed spectrum to deliver LTE, which means more capacity for operators and the ability for enterprises and other interests without licensed spectrum holdings to tap into the power of LTE.

The MulteFire Alliance has led the charge for private LTE in 5 GHz and has released a 1.0 specification as well as a 1.1 specification that speaks directly to MulteFire for the IoT. As this ecosystem continues to expand, Nokia today announced it would demonstrate a MulteFire small cell and end-to-end private LTE network at the upcoming Mobile World Congress event in 2018 ahead of planned commercial availability in Q2.

According to Nokia, it’s MulteFire small cell, the Flexi Zone MulteFire Multiband Pico BTS, supports downlink throughput up to 300 Mbps and comes in a four liter form factor that’s billed as having a “Wi-Fi-like ease of deployment.”

Randy Cox, head of small cell product management at Nokia, described the product in terms of supporting new business cases around private LTE and specifically called out the Industry 4.0 movement, which is the digital transformation of high-value verticals like mining, transportation, energy and smart cities.

“By making it possible for anyone to operate their own private LTE network,” Cox said, “Nokia is driving the transformation of industries in the same way that mobile networks and devices transformed our lives as consumers.” He said MulteFire “can easily and cost-effectively connect massive numbers of people and things including mobile assets. Wireless networks have a critical role in helping operators and industries embrace the fourth industrial revolution.”

Nokia called out specific mobile use cases including asset tracking, video surveillance and the creation by venue owners of multi-carrier neutral host networks


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