LAA momentum continues with vendor releases

Chinese vendor Baicells claims an LAA first, while SpiderCloud changes silicon supplier in order to meet market demand for LTE-U and LAA small cells.

Chinese manufacturer Baicells has released what it is claiming is the first LAA small cell onto the market.

Baicells LAA cell on Intel booth

Baicells LAA cell on Intel booth at MWC16.

The company has released a previous LTE-U cell using a software stack from Radisys that inludes LAA support. Although its LAA release didn’t confirm it, it seems likely that Radisys’s  TOTALeNodeB software is also behind the LAA cell.

Although LAA specifications are not fully formalised in 3GPP R13, the company says it has based its product on “the core part of LAA technology that was finished in December 2015.”

Elf Cell on the Qualcomm booth at MWC16

Elf Cell on the Qualcomm booth at MWC16

The company built the product around Intel’s Transcede SoC, as it did with the LTE-U product. Previous products from the company – such as the Elf cell, a tiny small cell, have used Qualcomm’s FS90xx chips.

The company claims to already have deployments of its LTE small cells in the pipeline with China Mobile. Baicells is also a member of the recently formed MulteFire Alliance, so is clearly committed to enabling LTE in unlicensed spectrum. The company is also a member of the Facebook-founded Telecoms Infra Project. 

Whether Baicells has the first “LAA” capable small cell vailable to market may be a moot point in fairly short order. The major vendors have all announced pending LAA support in one or other of their product lines – for example Ericsson’s 6402 picocell or Nokia’s FlexiZone cells. 

Dedicated small cell players are also on the case. SpiderCloud is one such that has announced that it will have LTE-U small cells, based on Qualcomm’s SoC, available this year, with LAA versions to follow in early 2017. The SpiderCloud LTE-U node includes a Qualcomm baseband processor and WiFi chip that senses the use of the unlicensed channel, giving the cell its “listening” capability. Amit Jain, VP Marketing at SpiderCloud, said that the product includes a “non-standard extension” to further improve co-existence, in that it sends out messages to other APs informing them of the LTE-U cell’s intention to use a channel.

SpiderCloud’s small cells were previously designed around Broadcom silicon, so the company clearly sees LAA and LTE-U support as a sufficient market driver to justify a change of supplier. Jain said that Broadcom was “working hard” on LTE-U/LAA support as well.

As previously announced, Verizon wants to deploy SpiderCloud’s LTE-U capable cells within its large enterprise deployments and Jain said that LTE-U and LAA support in small cells will become a “must-have”.

“Anyone with LTE small cells will say run in LAA if possible. What’s to lose?” asked Jain, who outlined a scenario where DAS vendors will come under increasing pressure because of their inability to make use of unlicensed spectrum. “If LAA is widely adopted then the DAS market could be gone,” he told TMN.

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