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LTE-U Is Nicer to WiFi Than WiFi – Qualcomm

Mitch Wagner
8/28/2015
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SAN DIEGO -- LTE-U isn't just compatible with WiFi. It's a better neighbor for WiFi devices than other WiFi devices are, say Qualcomm executives and engineers.

Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM) developed the technology along with Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), and they have been waging a political and PR war with WiFi advocates, who say the emerging technology needs further proof, including Federal Communications Commission (FCC) intervention, to ensure that LTE-U doesn't interfere with the vast existing WiFi infrastructure.

Qualcomm brought about a dozen tech journalists to its headquarters here this week, to feed us breakfast and lunch and try to convince us about several points:

  • LTE-U has already been extensively tested, and not only does it not interfere with WiFi, WiFi performance actually improves slightly in some cases if you replace a single WiFi access point with LTE-U on a wireless network containing multiple access points.
  • LTE-U is a better neighbor to WiFi access points than WiFi access points are to themselves. WiFi access points often interfere with one another, but LTE-U is designed to go out of its way to be polite.
  • The testing process has been open, with the wireless community as a whole encouraged to participate and find flaws.
  • Qualcomm has horses in both races, with an extensive existing business selling WiFi chips -- that it doesn't want to jeopardize -- and an emerging business in LTE-U.

What Could Go Wrong?
Mingxi Fan, Qualcomm VP of engineering and corporate R&D, beckons us to enter his torture chamber. Click on the photo for a brief slideshow of our visit to Qualcomm.
Mingxi Fan, Qualcomm VP of engineering and corporate R&D, beckons us to enter his torture chamber. Click on the photo for a brief slideshow of our visit to Qualcomm.

LTE-U is a variant of LTE that runs in the unlicensed spectrum, sharing that spectrum with WiFi. Qualcomm and LTE-U advocates claim LTE-U provides greater bandwidth, along with more manageability and security, than WiFi. However, WiFi advocates are urging caution and want the FCC to step in to require more testing and certification before deploying LTE-U.


Get the latest mobile news, analysis, and opinion on Light Reading's Mobile content channel.


The conflict pits Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), Ericsson, Qualcomm, Samsung Corp. , Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) and others against organizations including the Wi-Fi Alliance, Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) and CableLabs . (See Why Some Operators Think LTE-U Is Rude.)

Lobbying the FCC
LTE-U advocates submitted a letter to the FCC Wednesday urging the commission to reject an "unprecedented" request by the Wi-Fi Alliance to withhold certification of LTE-U equipment until the Wi-Fi Alliance develops a coexistence test plan and completes its own evaluation of LTE-U's impact on WiFi. (See Operators, Vendors Advise FCC on LTE-U and Qualcomm Wants FCC to Stay Out of LTE-U Fray.)

The Wi-Fi Alliance's requested delay "would have far reaching, negative consequences for the public, the industry, and Commission policy," says the letter, signed by representatives of Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, Qualcomm, T-Mobile and Verizon. "Allowing an organization that certifies interoperability for one particular technology to become the gatekeeper for another technology to use unlicensed spectrum would jeopardize the Commission's entire framework that has made unlicensed spectrum so successful as an open platform for permission-less innovation." The companies signing the letter say they're members of the Wi-Fi Alliance, with strong commercial interest in WiFi success, but were not approached by the Wi-Fi Alliance about that organization's position on LTE-U.

The Wi-Fi Alliance responded Thursday that it stands by its initial request: "There are billions of Wi-Fi users worldwide, so it is of critical importance for FCC and other regulatory bodies to be satisfied that LTE-U deployments will coexist fairly before approving such devices for use in unlicensed spectrum," the organization said in a statement signed by Ed Figueroa, Wi-Fi Alliance president and CEO.

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MikeP688
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MikeP688,
User Rank: Light Sabre
11/29/2015 | 4:05:09 AM
Couldn't Help But Wonder....
..what would Qualcomm's answer be to "Li Fi" that was commented on here with it emerging as an interesting (although as I see it not a necessarily viable) alternative to Wi-Fi.    

Fascinating times..no question...

 
sherifhanna
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sherifhanna,
User Rank: Blogger
9/10/2015 | 5:27:28 PM
Re: the great LTE-U debate
And not just Qualcomm results - independent testing backs up the claim that LTE-U has no more of an impact on Wi-Fi than Wi-Fi does (and many times, less impact).

 

Here's the new test resutls:

goo.gl/Uowc6t
kq4ym
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kq4ym,
User Rank: Light Sabre
9/10/2015 | 5:18:48 PM
Re: the great LTE-U debate
Is it a bit unusual for such an objection in the unlicensed spectrum? Or just a big stalling move by the wifi folks? Even with two sides to the issues it does appear there's no real concern for interference, or is Qualcomm overly optimistic? 
sherifhanna
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sherifhanna,
User Rank: Blogger
9/1/2015 | 6:06:39 PM
Re: the great LTE-U debate
You can see the test results in this Qualcomm FCC filing:

goo.gl/uOTV9F

The hardcore data starts on page 27. 
CraigPlunkett
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CraigPlunkett,
User Rank: Moderator
9/1/2015 | 10:07:42 AM
Re: the great LTE-U debate
Can anyone provide a Qualcomm link for the test setup of the first point in the article?
  • LTE-U has already been extensively tested, and not only does it not interfere with WiFi, WiFi performance actually improves slightly in some cases if you replace a single WiFi access point with LTE-U on a wireless network containing multiple access points.

It would be interesting to see the configuration of this test Wi-Fi network and how coexistence will impact the design of WiFi APs and networks going forward.
Sarah Thomas
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Sarah Thomas,
User Rank: Blogger
8/31/2015 | 4:54:02 PM
Re: the great LTE-U debate
I tend to agree there. They don't believe Qualcomm and friends no matter how many lab trials, demos and deployments in which they show it working well with WiFi. It'll take real-world deployments to prove it, but I doubt they'll be happy then. I'm sure it comes down more to money and business relationships than technology in the end.
Mitch Wagner
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Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
8/31/2015 | 10:48:32 AM
Re: the great LTE-U debate
Sarah - My knowledge of this subject is incredibly one-sided. But it does seem to me that the WiFi side of this doesn't really have a case, and is trying to use the FCC to delay competition. 
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/30/2015 | 11:28:52 PM
Re: the great LTE-U debate
Indeed, the Alliance's argument is a bit like saying, "Millions of Americans are Bell customers so it is of critical importance for regulators to be satisfied that new telephone companies will coexist fairly before approving their existence."
Sarah Thomas
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Sarah Thomas,
User Rank: Blogger
8/28/2015 | 10:28:12 AM
the great LTE-U debate
I've never seen a debate as contentious -- and beginning to be circuituitous -- as this one in our industry. WiFi-first MVNOs like Republic Wireless are speaking out now too. I would think they would be the most effected, since they rely so heavily on WiFi. But, otherwise, I don't really see the wireless operators' objection at this point -- it's been shown not to interfere with WiFi (whether they believe it or not), so what are they worried about -- just new competition?
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