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Ericsson and SmarTone, the leading mobile network operator in Hong Kong, have taken a significant step toward 5G with the successful trial of Licensed Assisted Access (LAA) technology in a live over-the-air demonstration in Hong Kong.

LAA allows the use of unlicensed spectrum in the 5GHz band in combination with licensed spectrum. By doing this, subscribers get an enhanced mobile broadband experience with even more capacity and faster speeds while operators make efficient use of unlicensed spectrum resources.

“SmarTone is very pleased to have completed the first LAA trial in Hong Kong.  LAA is an important technological evolution that can combine licensed and unlicensed spectrum to provide LTE service,” said Stephen Chau, Chief Technology Officer of SmarTone.

“It will be widely adopted in the US and European markets in the near future.  We are very excited that with the support of Ericsson, our long-term technology partner, SmarTone has once again brought a groundbreaking technology to mobile users in Hong Kong and taken a great step further toward 5G,” Chau added.

SmarTone used one LTE 10MHz band aggregated with three 20MHz bands of unlicensed spectrum for the trial. Together with 4CC carrier aggregation, 4x4 MIMO and 256QAM technologies, the trial used a Qualcomm® SnapdragonTM X16 LTE mobile test device and Ericsson’s micro Radio 2205 for LAA, which is designed for unlicensed spectrum use and provides small dimensions, flexible mounting and superior performance.  Future enhancement of LAA includes 5CC carrier aggregation support in 2018, and allows the download speeds to exceed 1Gbps.

“LAA is a key evolution of mobile technology and we are pleased to be first in Hong Kong together with SmarTone to demonstrate the increased capacity, improved speeds and enhanced user experience through the combination of licensed and unlicensed spectrum,” said Petra Schirren, President of Ericsson Hong Kong and Macau. “Through the introduction of advanced technologies, such as LAA, we enable Gigabit Class LTE on the road to 5G.”

This latest news is a significant milestone for SmarTone and Ericsson, after the companies extended their partnership in Q4, 2016 to transform the operator’s network beyond 4G. It also adds to a slew of recent achievements using LAA from Ericsson on the road to Gigabit LTE.

LAA is a key technology as operators evolve their networks to achieve Gigabit LTE. The milestone requires more spectrum than what most operators have access to, and by opening up previously untapped resources of unlicensed spectrum using LAA, operators can deliver speeds once thought only possible over fiber.