Light Reading

Why Some Operators Think LTE-U Is Rude

Sarah Thomas
5/5/2014
50%
50%

LTE-Unlicensed is an innovative new technology with a lot of potential -- or potential for concern, depending on which operator you ask.

LTE-U, or the ability to use 4G LTE wireless technology in unlicensed spectrum, first proposed by Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM) and Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) in December, has caused an unprecedented rift within the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) , according to a behind-the-scenes blog from Tom Peters on the International Telecoms and Media Law blog.

Verizon Wireless and China Mobile Ltd. (NYSE: CHL) are apparently all for it, while AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and many other operators involved in the standards organization were less than thrilled. (See Jury Still Out on LTE-Unlicensed.)

It's easy to see why -- AT&T has a huge investment in WiFi hotspots that could become less valuable if LTE takes over, but Verizon hasn't made the same bets. In fact, it's never made much of a fuss about WiFi at all. The operators were also concerned, Peters says, that a focus on LTE-U would distract from completing Release 12 of LTE specs.

The technical concern with LTE-U, as Peters describes it, is that LTE is a "rude" technology. WiFi includes a "politeness protocol" that LTE lacks, meaning that WiFi will back off if it senses interference from other users. Eventually rude ol' LTE operating in WiFi's polite bands could take over the band.

The 3GPP called another unofficial meeting in January to discuss concerns around LTE-U, which also included the potential effect on the value of licensed spectrum, the need for international harmonization of the unlicensed bands used for LTE-U, and whether the technology would be for downlink only or uplink as well. The group met again in March, primarily to work out timing for the new technology's deployment.

Peters says that, as of the last meeting, operators that now support LTE-U, in addition to Verizon and China Mobile, include NTT DoCoMo Inc. (NYSE: DCM), T-Mobile US Inc. , Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT), TeliaSonera AB (Nasdaq: TLSN), and China Unicom Ltd. (NYSE: CHU), as well as most major vendors happy to use their infrastructure for new purposes. Those opposed include Orange (NYSE: FTE), Telefónica SA (NYSE: TEF), Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD), Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S), Southern Communications Services Inc. , U.S. Cellular Corp. , and Dish Network LLC (Nasdaq: DISH).

I've also asked many operators and vendors in the industry about LTE-U, and responses have ranged from trepidation to excitement for those who had never heard of it, since it's still in the R&D phase. Ruckus Wireless Inc. (NYSE: RKUS) CEO Selina Lo, for one, said bring it on -- it's good for service providers and enterprises alike, while Aptilo Networks AB CEO Torbjorn Ward warns it's a solution in search of a problem.

"I think LTE on unlicensed sounds like a good idea if it wasn’t for the fact that there are 4 billion devices on WiFi out there," he told Light Reading earlier this year, noting that 802.11ac can already run at a hundred megabytes per second, so there's little need for the LTE boost. "I think when it comes to unlicensed, you can do a longer range with LTE, but I don’t see the full benefit."

Another vendor, Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), which supported Qualcomm's proposal to the 3GPP, says, why not? "The future evolution of LTE is a very efficient user of spectrum, and you can fundamentally get more capacity out of it than what can generally be done with WiFi straight up," Alcatel-Lucent General Manger Mike Schabel said in a January interview. "If we can do carrier aggregation across disparate frequencies in LTE then why not add that as an additional plug?"

These are the kinds of questions the 3GPP will continue to work on answering when it meets next month in Nice, France. In the meantime, check out Peters' full article, which is an interesting look into the complicated process of introducing a new technology, as well as a blog on our site from Richard Thanki, which delves into the competitive considerations of LTE-U.

It's a complicated technology both from a technical perspective and a business model view, but it's another evolution to keep an eye on as the operators continue to advance their network strategies.

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

(10)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
MordyK
50%
50%
MordyK,
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/5/2014 | 3:25:12 PM
Re: Goin' for broke
A Muni WiFi style deployment that rides on existing small cells and public safety gear with just fequency support added, is something I envisioned when I first got wind of LTE-U.
Mitch Wagner
50%
50%
Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
5/5/2014 | 2:36:28 PM
Re: Goin' for broke
Even if LTE-U creates technology problems, it will still end up being deployed if it offers significant other advantages. That seems to be just the way the technology industry works. 

Does LTE-U offer any inherent advantages over WiFi to balance out its rudeness? Greater range or bandwidth?

SarahReedy
50%
50%
SarahReedy,
User Rank: Blogger
5/5/2014 | 12:38:21 PM
Re: Goin' for broke
Is that something the 3GPP can do through standards -- modify it to be polite? The industry might not wait on standards to implement, but I imagine that's one goal the 3GPP is working towards.

Dean Bubley predicted on Twitter that someone would "probably hack LTE stds & do an unlicensed-band unofficial non-carrier version & then if there's available LTE-U chips for devices, how long before we'd get unlicensed "community 4G"?
fgoldstein
50%
50%
fgoldstein,
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/5/2014 | 12:23:45 PM
Re: Goin' for broke
Rude behavior can lead to congestion collapse, as unreadable messages are retransmitted, causing more traffic, causing more unreadable messages, etc.  Recall the history of the Internet before everyone adopted VJ Slow Start, and likewise fear the growth of UDP streaming.

LTE was designed for reserved, clear bands.  If you're going to modify to tolerate interference -- necessary on unlicensed frequencies -- then you should modify it to be polite.  WiFi is incredibly valuable, and isn't going to surrender.  Nor would the public tolerate loss of unlicensed use -- unlicensed is the more efficient future, not more exclusionary licensing.
SarahReedy
50%
50%
SarahReedy,
User Rank: Blogger
5/5/2014 | 11:57:54 AM
Re: Goin' for broke
Yeah, even with all the disagreement over LTE-U, it's interesting that the conclusion was they just need to work out the timing. Can't stop innovation from happening, even when it's not operator friendly (and it usually isn't).
kq4ym
100%
0%
kq4ym,
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/5/2014 | 11:51:41 AM
Re: Goin' for broke
It's hard to see that unlicensed spectrum can remain that way for long. With the growing technical capabilities and competitiveness of the industry, it would seem only in a short time, the need for either regulation or lots of industry cooperation to keep the frequencies clear and useable.
SarahReedy
50%
50%
SarahReedy,
User Rank: Blogger
5/5/2014 | 11:05:20 AM
Re: Goin' for broke
That's true. LTE-U will be more expensive, at least initially, to implement. I also fail to see where it's really necessary. You might need the extra boost for video downloads or intensive streaming, but the operators, including Verizon, were already working on that with "turbo-boost" tech over LTE only. Is this more effective or, at least, cost effective?
mendyk
50%
50%
mendyk,
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/5/2014 | 10:59:45 AM
Re: Goin' for broke
A lot will depend on service cost. Right now WiFi has a big advantage on that count as far as end users are concerned. But that's right now.
SarahReedy
50%
50%
SarahReedy,
User Rank: Blogger
5/5/2014 | 10:29:06 AM
Re: Goin' for broke
I agree. It's interesting that the lines are being drawn between operators early on to. How much they have invested in WiFi determines how interested they are. I wonder if Verizon wnill look like the smart one for holding off after this is all said and done.
mendyk
50%
50%
mendyk,
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/5/2014 | 10:26:49 AM
Goin' for broke
The battle between WiFi and LTE-U camps will be fun to watch. Evolution will require WiFi to get rude or get pushed aside.
More Blogs from Que Sera Sarah
But the bar it has set is really, really low, according to a recent Dell study.
The steady drumbeat of progress continues on as new groups are formed, R&D centers opened, timelines presented and strategies refined for making 5G a reality by 2020.
P3's study of VoLTE in the DC area shows it delivers high-quality, crisp calling, but a lot of stars still have to align to be able to use it.
And Light Reading wants to help! We're proud to partner with Intel to identify and profile female and minority-led communications startups competing for the funding.
Chicago CIO and Women in Tech at BTE keynoter Brenna Berman explains why we need more women and minorities in the tech industry.
Flash Poll
From The Founder
Network architects aiming to upgrade their networks to support agile, open, virtualized services in the 21st century need to consider new criteria when choosing between technology suppliers.
Live Streaming Video
BTE 2015 Sponsor Keynote: HP
Dr. Prodip Sen, CTO, Network Functions Virtualization, HP
LRTV Custom TV
Red Hat Demo

7|2|15   |   10:53   |   (0) comments


Red Hat's Nicolas Lemieux demonstrates how Red Hat is driving innovation through open source communities.
LRTV Custom TV
Red Hat's Approach to OpenStack Adoption

7|2|15   |   5:17   |   (0) comments


Red Hat's Radhesh Balakrishnan outlines his company's open source strategy for both enterprises and telcos.
LRTV Custom TV
The New IP Goes Mobile With vEPC

7|2|15   |   1:12   |   (0) comments


Heavy Reading's Gabriel Brown discusses results of a Light Reading survey sponsored by Brocade that shows a clear commitment by mobile operators to move quickly to virtual EPC deployment.
LRTV Custom TV
Making Business Sense of SDN

7|2|15   |   1:42   |   (0) comments


Results of a Brocade-sponsored survey show that CSPs have a clear sense of SDN use cases but are wrestling with the business case. Sterling Perrin of Heavy Reading looks behind the numbers.
LRTV Custom TV
NFV Will Be Here Sooner Than You Think

7|2|15   |   2:22   |   (0) comments


Forget the usual ten-year cycle for new technologies – NFV will be a core part of CSP networks in five years, based on results of a Brocade-sponsored survey, says Heavy Reading's Caroline Chappell.
LRTV Custom TV
The New IP Gains Traction With CSPs

7|2|15   |   1:42   |   (0) comments


Roz Roseboro of Heavy Reading analyzes results of a Light Reading survey sponsored by Brocade showing that CSPs are getting serious about making the transition to the New IP era.
LRTV Custom TV
It's (Real) Time for Analytics

7|2|15   |   1:42   |   (0) comments


Heavy Reading's Jim Hodges looks at how CSPs say they plan to use analytics to deploy new services in real time as part of The New IP, based on results of a survey sponsored by Brocade.
LRTV Documentaries
IoT in Action

6|30|15   |   1:39   |   (7) comments


Two co-workers discuss the benefits of IoT technology.
LRTV Interviews
Ericsson Opens Up on OPNFV

6|30|15   |   14:16   |   (1) comment


Martin Bäckström, VP and head of industry area Datacom at Ericsson, talks to Light Reading founder and CEO Steve Saunders about the emergence of OPNFV, the importance of standards and Ericsson's OPNFV plans.
LRTV Custom TV
NetNumber Founder Discusses NFV/SDN Impact on SP Networks

6|26|15   |   4:15   |   (0) comments


NetNumber Founder Doug Ranalli examines why SPs need a new network infrastructure for service agility. While NFV and SDN are the tools, the old ways of thinking about signaling control are inhibitors. Doug provides his recommendations.
LRTV Custom TV
Orchestrating NFV vCPE Services Across Multivendor Networks

6|26|15   |   5:46   |   (0) comments


Nirav Modi provides an overview of vCPE, the fastest-growing NFV use case, showing how Cyan's Blue Planet orchestrates vCPE services across a multivendor infrastructure to rapidly deliver new managed services for business customers.
LRTV Custom TV
ZTE at LTE Summit Amsterdam 2015

6|26|15   |     |   (0) comments


As one of the leading global telecommunications providers, ZTE presented its cutting-edge technology at LTE World Summit 2015 in Amsterdam. On display at ZTE's booth were the latest R&D achievements in wireless, 5G development, HetNet, deep convergence of FDD and TDD, and RCS/IMD/iSDN/vCN.
Upcoming Live Events
September 16-17, 2015, The Westin Galleria Dallas, Dallas, TX
September 29-30, 2015, The Westin Grand Müchen, Munich, Germany
October 6, 2015, The Westin Peachtree Plaza, Atlanta, GA
October 6, 2015, Westin Peachtree Plaza, Atlanta, GA
October 14-15, 2015, New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, New Orleans, LA
November 5, 2015, Hilton Santa Clara, Santa Clara, CA
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
Hot Topics
Who's Feeding Fiber to LinkNYC Hotspots?
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 6/29/2015
Colt to Jettison Ailing IT Business
Iain Morris, News Editor, 6/30/2015
Eurobites: Activist Investor Takes Stake in AlcaLu
Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, 6/30/2015
What's a Gigabit Good For?
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large, 7/1/2015
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
Webinar Archive
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
Casa Systems has been going from strength to strength over the last couple of years. In 2013, it became the first vendor to ship an integrated CCAP device -- the ...
Cedrik Neike, SVP of Global Service Provider, Service Delivery, at Cisco, talks to Light Reading founder and CEO Steve Saunders about solving service provider customer problems in a virtualized, DevOps world, including multivendor support and the future of network procurement.
Cats with Phones