The Qualcomm chipset uses carrier aggregation, a part of the LTE-Advanced specification that carriers are already using to glue together different chunks of licensed spectrum. Initial deployments will combine 20MHz of licensed spectrum with 20MHz from the unlicensed band. Later, it will be possible to aggregate several times that much spectrum for a bigger performance boost, Chmaytelli said.
In some regions, carriers may start putting up LAA cells in the first half of next year, he said. Those in Japan and Europe have to wait for new rules being written for the next version of LTE to account for a "listen before talk" requirement for unlicensed spectrum there. Chmaytelli expects those carriers to start rolling out networks 12 to 18 months later.
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