25 February, 2017
The Federal Communications Commission gave the green light Wednesday to equipment makers such as Nokia and Ericsson to begin deploying LTE-U devices, saying industry testing had proved that LTE-U and Wi-Fi can coexist peacefully. It adds that LTE-U constantly seeks the least utilised channels to maximise efficiency and performance for everyone.
Short for LTE-Unlicensed, LTE-U is a variant of the 4G LTE that millions of Americans rely on every day. "LTE-U allows wireless providers to deliver mobile data traffic using unlicensed spectrum while sharing the road, so to speak, with Wi-Fi". These devices cannot invade now used airwaves, but can claim them and keep Wi-Fi devices from using them, which means that the 5 gigahertz spectrum area could become just a bit more congested in some areas depending on how many LTE-U devices are around. "Nokia is committed to working alongside T-Mobile to bring new solutions to market", said Ricky Corker, Nokia EVP and Head of North America. "T-Mobile's built a track record of introducing new innovations first, including deploying more LTE Advanced technologies than anyone in the US". With LTE-U, T-Mo will be able to boost its LTE capacity and offer improved data speeds. "The grants issued today are for the ability for the devices to operate under Part 15 rules in the 5 GHz band". "This [announcement] heralds a technical breakthrough in the many shared uses of this spectrum".
Critics of the technology point to potential pitfalls should the smartphone signals conflict with existing users of the airwaves, which aren't limited to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth and include garage door openers, baby monitors and key fobs for cars.
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Later in the year, other wireless carriers are also understood to be planning to install LTE-U as well as another technology that is closely related, LAA.
Testing showed that mobile data networks can automatically reduce their usage of the 5GHz band in areas where there is heavy WiFi usage, and ramp it up in areas where the spectrum is under-used. LTE-U backs off as demand on the Wi-Fi network increases.