Nokia scoops “world first” on small cell carrier aggregation. Or does it? (UPDATE: yes it does, it says)

Nokia announces world first demo of LTE-A in a small cell. But did the company truly get there first?

Nokia has a post on its site saying it has demonstrated a “world first”  – carrier aggregation in a small cell.

The Nokia post said, “Nokia Networks is first to bring LTE-Advanced (LTE-A) to small cells by demonstrating carrier aggregation to deliver a peak data rate of more than 200 Mbps .”

Nokia small cell carrier aggregation

Is it a world first, though? Ericsson “announced” its indoor picocell the RBS6402 in September this year, with a commercial shipping date for the product of March 2015. That product too can can allow two LTE bands to be aggregated. In fact Ericsson claims that product has a peak throughput of 300Mbps LTE.

TMN has contacted Nokia for clarification as to “world first” status. Is this the first actual live demo, the first  generally available product, or is it something to do with classification of the word small cell? (More when we have it, as they say on the News!)

\\\ UPDATE: We have now heard back from Nokia, receiving some replies from Stephane Daeuble, Global Product Manager, Nokia Networks.

In a nutshell, what Daeuble argues is that Nokia’s Flexi Zone small cells are already “LTE-A capable” – with Carrier Aggregation included in that. That means that the cells being deployed today are already capable, with this newly-demonstrated software upgrade, of supporting Carrier Aggregation. What Nokia has announced is the first live demonstration of that Carrier Aggregation feature that will be generally available at the end of this year, and early next year.

TMN: When is this feature is commercially available?

Daeuble: “Commercial availability of Intra-site CA software feature on Flexi Zone BTS range will start from end-2014/beginning-2015 (software upgrade / date depends on variants).”

Q: How do you define a world first? Ericsson announced the RBS6402 picocell in September, with a commercial shipping date of March 2015, a product that it claims can support 2 band LTE carrier aggregation.

Daeuble: “We are shipping CA capable small cells today already. Nokia was first to announce a LTE-A capable Small Cell (including CA) with the launch of Flexi Zone Micro/Pico BTS in February 2013. Flexi Zone Micro/Pico BTS are commercially available since beginning of 2014 and are shipping commercially in many networks. In that regards, we are the only vendor with a CA capable small cells, being deployed commercially today and today we have proven we are the first able to make it happen. 

In addition, we announced the Flexi Zone G2 Pico BTS – a 4×4 MIMO CA capable solution in September 2014 and our announcement came a week before Ericsson’s.

In terms of this specific announcement, we have shown the first live Small Cell running LTE-A Intra-site CA 2x20MHz with speed in excess of 200Mbps. This was done in our lab and shown / demo’ed to some operators interested in the technology (who we cannot disclose the names of) to furthest boost Small Cell/HetNet performance.”

END UPDATE \\\

However you view claims to be first to LTE-A in a small cell, it seems as if Nokia is getting some traction with its Flexi Zone small cells – the company says it has signed ten new small cell deals in the last six weeks. Nokia has always claimed its small cell approach is different because it offers a full macro sector of capacity within the cell, offering software and feature parity between its macro and micro/pico cells.

Carrier Aggregation in small cells as an idea is not new. Platform developer Radisys and SoC provider Mindspeed (as was) demonstrated the technology at Mobile World Congress in February 2013, for instance. However, some are not convinced that there is a pressing need at all for small cell Carrier Aggregation, given that LTE small cells that serve a targeted area with relatively few users and deploy performance enhancing techniques such as SON, should already give decent real life throughputs (if not 300Mbps peak theoretical rates).

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