Think SA’s mobile internet is fast now? Well, it’s about to get faster – MTN’s latest wireless internet tech has achieved speeds of 200Mbps, a very impressive 50Mbps faster than the highest advertised speeds of LTE-A.

It’s called LTE-U, and stands for LTE-Unlicensed as it makes partial use of the currently-unlicensed 5GHz spectrum.

Running a trial at its flagship channel store in Morningside, Johannesburg, MTN combined two frequencies of spectrum into one application – 10MHz of MTN’s licensed 1800MHz spectrum and 20MHz within the unlicensed 5GHz band.

LTE-U is a rather big step forward for mobile internet connectivity, and it will play a huge role in activating 5G – fifth-generation mobile networks – when it is ready.

“LTE-U is designed to take advantage of the capacity available in the unlicensed 5GHz band spectrum. Through aggregating licensed spectrum with unlicensed spectrum a bigger LTE carrier is created. The ability to aggregate spectrum is one of the primary benefits of LTE. Using this technology, MTN is able to combine its LTE spectrum with portions of the 5GHz spectrum band, to enable LTE- Unlicensed,” said Krishna Chetty, acting chief technology officer for MTN South Africa.

In March last year, Qualcomm announced its first small-cell system-on-a-chip for LTE-U, the same system used by MTN.

Our own Adam Oxford wrote at the time that this addresses the issue of spectrum shortages for high-speed data common throughout the world, by using the unlicensed 5GHz band – currently only really used by some WiFi routers – for LTE mobile data.

It is for that reason, that MTN and its network partner, Ericsson, have been pushing the technology.

“The lack of critical high-value spectrum has compelled MTN to combine existing licensed mobile spectrum with unlicensed 5GHz spectrum to cater for the rollout of new generation networks such as LTE-U,” said Chetty.

MTN’s test run is also significant, as it is the first LTE-U trial and the first enhanced CSAT (Carrier Sensing Adaptive Transmission) functionality demonstrated in Africa.

While the demonstration was successful, don’t expect to be getting LTE-U speeds on your phone anytime soon. Handset manufacturers and network providers need to upgrade their phones and networks respectively to support it first, which will only happen as 5G networks start rolling out. Whenever that will be.

[Image – CC by 2.0/Greg McMullen]


Charlie started his professional life as a motoring journalist for a community newspaper in Mpumalanga, Charlie explored different journalistic angles since his entry into the fast-paced world of publishing in 2006. While fostering a passion for the arts, Charlie developed a love for technology – both which allowed him to serve as Entertainment and Technology Editor for an online publication. Charlie has since been heavily involved in consumer technology for various websites and publications. He thoroughly enjoys World War II films and cerebral documentaries; aviation; photography and indie music. Oh yes, and he also has a rather strange obsession with collecting coffee mugs from his travels.