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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.


AT&T was also relatively unforthcoming. Global Media Relations Director Jim Greer said the company is evaluating unlicensed technology, and testing new wireless capabilities in its labs, but wouldn’t directly confirm AT&T’s LTE-U plans, and declined to give a definitive answer as to whether AT&T believed LTE-U as currently constituted would interfere with Wi-Fi.

T-Mobile did not respond to requests for comment.

That’s not a big surprise, according to wireless expert Craig Mathias. Details about potential LTE-U deployments are competitively valuable, so it’s unlikely that the carriers would want to let them slip.

“The carriers will not tip their hand until all of the cards are dealt,” he said. “And we're still at least a year away from that.”

Mathias (who has written for Network World in the past) also said that issues of interference haven’t yet been resolved. It’s another factor delaying LTE-U deployments – whether the carriers admit it or not.

“Can you imagine the negative press if LTE-U clobbers Wi-Fi?” he asked.

Moreover, IDC research manager Sathya Atreyam said the carriers may be less sanguine about LTE-U’s friendliness with Wi-Fi than they’re saying publicly. It’s a question of hanging on to subscribers, particularly for the current front-runners, Verizon and AT&T.

“They don’t want this LTE-U vs. Wi-Fi debate to trigger more churn,” he said. “Because everything depends on the quality of experience – it all boils down to a network that sucks or a network that doesn’t suck.”


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