Mobile's 'LTE-U' program will use unlicensed spectrum for more LTE bandwidth

Mobile's 'LTE-U' program will use unlicensed spectrum for more LTE bandwidth


LTE-U will allow T-Mobile customers to take advantage of 20MHz of "underutilized unlicensed spectrum" on the 5GHz band.

T-Mobile plans to make the new network capabilities available this spring. While 802.11n could operate in either the 2.4-GHz or 5-GHz bands, 802.11ac is designed for 5 GHz only.

Wi-Fi & LTE-U Communities Come Together When the idea of LTE-U first surfaced, it developed into something of a shoving match between the mobile operators and the Wi-Fi industry.

The downside is that the new technology will not solve the biggest problem users have with T-Mobile, which is coverage. The FCC's decision opens the possibilities for a technical breakthrough in the shared uses of this spectrum. "Unlicensed", however, doesn't mean "unused".

Fronting the battle for the Wi-Fi side has been the Wi-Fi Alliance, with support from Google and a number of cable operators, many of whom have built extensive public Wi-Fi networks for their customers. 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.

Minutes later, T-Mobile issued a press release detailing its plans for LTE-U.

However, the company added that the FCC's certification follows more than three years of research, development and testing to ensure LTE-U works well alongside WiFi technologies. Though it remains to be seen just how effective LTE-U will be, the basic principle is that end users would have a more robust and seamless experience when using cellular networks. According to Ars Technica, LTE-U has been proved to work without affecting the users of conventional Wi-Fi, as the technology constantly seeks the least utilized channels in order to maximize performance and efficiency for everyone. On Tuesday, the FCC approved of the first use of unlicensed LTE in the 5 GHz band with equipment modification grants for Ericsson and Nokia, both equipment partners of the carrier. Ironic, as the mobile operators had formerly looked disparagingly on unlicensed spectrum and touted the benefits of owning licensed spectrum that was guaranteed to be free of interference.

  • Terrell Bush