Verizon Communications has committed to introduce Long Term Evolution using unlicensed spectrum, even before the formal standard has been ratified.
LTE in unlicensed spectrum allows mobile service providers to bond capacity supplied by licensed and unlicensed spectrum.
Mobile service providers have numerous tools available to them to increase network capacity, ranging from actual spectrum resources to traffic offload to network architecture to improvements in air interface technology.
An at least as Verizon Communications positions the matter, the cost of acquiring new spectrum is growing, while the cost of network enhancements is dropping.
Without question, mobile service providers prefer to supply capacity by gaining the use of new spectrum, largely because that has been “an extremely cost effective means of adding capacity,” according to Tony Melone, Verizon Communications CTO.
But Moore’s Law and manufacturing volume matter. So the cost of relying on a technology-driven solution (smaller cells, better radios, antennas and modulation protocols) are going down every year, Melone also said.
That probably does not mean capacity gains are equivalent, using either “new spectrum” or “network technology” approaches. It likely remains the case that additional spectrum remains a cheaper way to gain new capacity.
But Long Term Evolution, eventually 5G, antenna technologies and interference management techniques are playing a crucial role.
“All of these technology solutions will drive improvements in bits per hertz and cost per bit,” Melone said.
The latest technique is use of LTE protocols over unlicensed spectrum. “With our key suppliers we are active in the standards process and will likely deploy a pre-standard version in the not too distant future,” said Melone.