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U.S. carriers stay tight-lipped on LTE-U deployments

Jon Gold | Jan. 29, 2016
America’s big four wireless service providers are enthusiastic about the prospect of delivering data over unlicensed frequencies via LTE-U, but they’re playing their cards very close to their chests when it comes to specific plans.

secret wifi
Credit: Thinkstock/Public Domain/REMIXED

America’s big four wireless service providers are enthusiastic about the prospect of delivering data over unlicensed frequencies via LTE-U, but they’re playing their cards very close to their chests when it comes to specific plans.

LTE-U, which is a wireless protocol designed to let carriers use their LTE signals over the same unlicensed frequencies as Wi-Fi, is a controversial technology. Advocates, which include the wireless carriers, insist that coexistence features built into the standard will allow it to use the same airwaves as Wi-Fi without interference. Critics say that independent testing shows that LTE-U could drown out Wi-Fi signals when the two conflict.

VERIZON ON LTE-U

Rumored deployments of LTE-U have been pegged to this calendar year, but only Verizon was willing to state on the record that it is, in fact, planning to deploy LTE-U in 2016. The company’s assistant vice president for federal regulatory affairs, Patrick Walsh, told Network World that Verizon was planning a limited trial deployment late this year.

“The initial deployment will be very limited, the only product that we have right now is an in-building enterprise solution,” he said, declining to say where that initial deployment might take place.

However, Walsh added, Verizon feels that the long-term promise of LTE-U technology is substantial, and that concerns about interference with existing Wi-Fi are groundless.

“LTE is a better neighbor to Wi-Fi than Wi-Fi is to itself,” he said. “We see [LTE] as a great opportunity to help improve the overall mobile broadband experience for our customers by providing better coverage and faster download speeds.”

Verizon, along with AT&T and T-Mobile, is a member of the Evolve Coalition, an industry group advocating the benefits of LTE-U. (Other members include Ericsson and Qualcomm, the companies most responsible for the development of the LTE-U standard.)

SPRINT SEES LTE-U OPPORTUNITY

Even though it’s not a member of the Evolve Coalition, Sprint echoed much of the party line when contacted, with corporate communications Senior Manager Adrienne Norton saying that LTE-U represents “a great opportunity,” and that it was “complementary to our network strategy.”

Still, Norton would not confirm or deny whether Sprint had plans to deploy LTE-U, and she came closest to acknowledging that opponents of the technology might have a point.

“We see no reason to rush forward with LTE-U amid uncertainty and acrimony over basic technical facts,” Norton said. “Our technology teams are evaluating both LTE-U and LAA, and while the use of unlicensed spectrum is on Sprint’s long-term road map, our rich 2.5GHz spectrum position gives us the highest capacity network today and well into the future.”

 

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