Difference between Licensed Band and Unlicensed Band

This page compares licensed band vs Unlicensed Band and mentions major difference between Licensed and Unlicensed (i.e. License Exempt) Bands.

Introduction: The systems deployed within both licensed and unlicensed bands operate as per national or regional regulations. Cellular systems follow 3GPP technical specifications. In unlicensed or license exempt bands, local variations are higher. In USA, FCC defines regulations for unlicensed bands viz. 902 to 928 MHz and 2400 to 2483.5 MHz. In Europe, ETSI publishes standards for unlicensed bands such as 863 to 870 MHz and 2400 to 2483.5 MHz.

Licensed band

➤License is required to be purchased for spectrum use and it is not free.
➤The medium can be accessed or used only by the owner of the license (e.g. MNO)
➤Medium can be accessed via scheduling. Permission is required for transmission or reception.
➤Interference management is carried out by careful frequency planning.
➤Advantages: The benefits of licensed spectrum is known and predictive interference, possibly to use QoS.
➤Disadvantages: • It incurs high costs for network operators. • It is not in use most of the time. • It requires central management. • Low scalability. ➤Examples (licensed frequency bands) : 700 MHz, 800 MHz, 1.8 GHz, 2.6 GHz, 3.5 GHz etc.
➤Examples (Systems): GSM, UMS, LTE, TV broadcasting, Military etc.

Unlicensed band

➤License is free.
➤Anyone can use the unlicensed spectrum and its medium.
➤Anyone can access the medium via listening if channel is empty.
➤Interference management is carried out using various techniques such as listen before talk, good neighbour behaviour, distributed management etc.
➤Advantages:• Free or low cost to use• It is available everywhere• Scalable
➤Disadvantages:• Unpredictable interference (due to lack of QoS), Higher load, Lack of protection from interference due to other systems.
➤Examples (Unlicensed frequency bands) : 2.4 GHz, 5.8 GHz, 60 GHz
➤Examples (Systems) : WiFi, Bluetooth, LAA etc.

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