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M1 to boost network downlink speeds up to 1Gbps using Nokia's LAA solution

By Vijay Anand - on 20 Dec 2018, 10:22am

M1 to boost network download speeds up to 1Gbps using Nokia's LAA solution in the near future

M1 and Nokia announced that they have completed the Licensed Assisted Access (LAA) small cells trial and achieved close to 1Gbps network download speed.

What's LAA about?

Here's a quote from our detailed article here:-

LAA is the global standard for LTE in the unlicensed band, or LTE-U, which uses the unlicensed 5GHz spectrum currently utilized by Wi-Fi networks to boost LTE signals.

How was the throughput achieved?

During the trial, Nokia’s advanced LAA Air Scale small cell, which aggregates up to four carriers and combines up to four multiple transmission paths, achieved a download peak speed close to 1Gbps.  Leveraging on the advanced interworking capabilities of LAA and precise planning and design carried out by M1’s engineers and Nokia’s service experts, the solution provides 4.5G technology in the unlicensed 5GHz spectrum band, which complements well with M1’s existing licensed band and is able to co-exist with Wi-Fi networks using the same 5GHz spectrum.

Where will this be deployed?

M1’s Heterogeneous Network (HetNet), the largest in Singapore with more than 500 integrated small cells and Wi-Fi access points deployed at traffic hotspots throughout Singapore including MRT/ LRT stations, bus interchanges, major commercials buildings, malls, and other popular outdoor areas, will also be enhanced with Nokia’s LAA capabilities in the near future.

With the advanced LAA solution, M1 is able to improve data bandwidth at high-traffic hotspots, minimize network congestion and continue to deliver high data speed to M1 customers at crowded places. The deployment will also enrich customers’ experience by ensuring a seamless coverage and uninterrupted mobile service across M1’s cellular and WiFi network.

Through this latest trial with our long-term technology partner Nokia, we reiterate our commitment in applying the latest technologies to provide our customers with the best possible cellular and Wi-Fi experience on the move. M1 customers will continue to enjoy an even better user experience through M1’s advanced 4G+ mobile network. - Mr Denis Seek, M1 CTO.

When can customers expect to see this deployed?

Unfortunately, IMDA has yet to approve LAA rollout in Singapore and it's still ongoing regulatory approvals and firming the framework with the local telcos. Sources say it could be late 2019 before LAA based standards are rolled out.

Wait. Aren't our local networks already capable of gigabit-class peak download throughput?

Well, sort of.

M1 is already capable of achieving up to 800Mbps peak wireless download speeds and its competitor Singtel has achieved up 1.5Gbps peak downlink speeds using a unique five-carrier aggregation setup in collaboration with Ericsson.

So, then what's the fuss about this news and LAA based network support?

Put simply, LAA co-exists with Wi-Fi to enable longer rangeincreased network capacity, and more robust mobility capabilities. This essentially means higher data rates over a larger area of coverage, especially while outdoors - thus greatly improving the overall average data rate.

So while current networks can technically support up to and beyond gigabit-class peak downlinks, the reality is that there are numerous factors such as network overheads, network capacity, where the access points are, how much load they've to manage, network traffic policies and much more that affect your real-world peak and average data throughput. According to IMDA's IMconnected reports, the real-world peak throughputs by network operators is between 200 to 300Mbps and the average could even be under 50Mbps.

Once LAA based standards are approved and rollout, we expect these figures to at least double.

Meanwhile, let's hope IMDA moves fast to help the telcos empower consumers (and hopefully without hikes in data cost). On another note, Singtel has also tested peak throughput using LAA configuration sometime last year.

What else is M1 busy with?

Earlier this year, M1 and Nokia announced plans to conduct Nokia’s first 5G small cell trial in Southeast Asia to showcase demand-driven 5G use cases in selected vertical industries. Meanwhile, M1 and Huawei have showcased live end-to-end 5G testing. Last year, M1 together with Nokia, also deployed Southeast Asia’s first nationwide commercial Narrowband-Internet of Things (NB-IoT) network, to spur smart solutions innovation and support Singapore’s transformation into a Smart Nation.