Qualcomm Wants FCC to Stay Out of LTE-U Fray

Ignore the chorus of naysayers: LTE-Unlicensed is an innovative technology that will play nice with WiFi and bring many benefits to consumers, and the FCC doesn't need to have anything to do with how the standard shapes up.

At least that was the message that Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM) and T-Mobile US Inc. conveyed on Monday at a reporter briefing in Washington DC hosted by the CTIA .

While there have been a number of concerns raised around the use of LTE in unlicensed spectrum, primarily from cable companies and those with big investments in WiFi, executives from Qualcomm and T-Mobile largely dismissed them as misguided, overblown and, in some cases, even flat-out lies. (See Why Some Operators Think LTE-U Is Rude.)

Qualcomm SVP of Government Affairs Dean Brenner began by breaking down three kinds of emerging unlicensed technologies, all of which he said fully comply with Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules. Those include:

  • LTE-U: a downlink-only protocol compatible with release 10, 11 and 12 of the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) 's LTE standards that uses carrier aggregation to bond WiFi and LTE.
  • License-Assisted Access (LAA): a version of LTE-U specified in release 13 that includes Listen Before Talk (LBT) to ensure WiFi and LTE can coexist. It is mandated in the Europe and Japan, but not the US, but Brenner says LTE-U here has its own coexistence protocol in place that mitigates interference. (See T-Mobile Expects LTE-U to Feature Listen-Before-Talk.)
  • MuLTEfire: a technology developed by Qualcomm that doesn't require a licensed anchor channel, so that anyone -- such as venues or cable companies without licensed footprints -- can deploy LTE-U. (See Qualcomm Aims MuLTEfire at Unlicensed Bands.)

"Many groups that are concerned about LTE-U have the same concerns about LAA," Brenner said, adding, "it comes down to the cable industry, which is doing whatever it can to slow down, delay and obstruct LAA."

Chris Wieczorek, T-Mobile's principal, corporate counsel, agreed that the "conflict is overblown" around whether LTE-U will interfere with WiFi connectivity, and both Wieczorek and Brenner stressed that the FCC should stay out of the standards making process for LTE-U. (See T-Mobile Gets Small & Unlicensed With Nokia.)

The FCC put out a request for comment on LTE-U in May, soliciting feedback from both proponents and opponents of LTE-U. The regulatory body is expected to follow up with suggested rules and regulations based on the feedback, but T-Mobile and Qualcomm maintain there's no need for FCC-organized meetings, working groups or further studies. (See Operators, Vendors Advise FCC on LTE-U.)

"There's no reason for FCC involvement," Brenner said. "They've asked questions, they got technical information, and we think we're doing all the things people at the FCC would want us to do. We're collaborating; doing everything we can to make sure the technologies work well together. At some point there has to be a technical basis for these issues. We've responded to all the concerns that have been raised with the technical issues."

"Let the engineers do their job," Wieczorek added.

For more on LTE-Unlicensed, visit the 4G LTE content section here on Light Reading.

When asked about a statement from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) suggesting that there has been no attempt at coordination between the IEEE and 3GPP on WiFi and LTE co-existence, Brenner said that is simply untrue, noting that Qualcomm has met with IEEE members, worked with the Wi-Fi Alliance and brought in carriers to allay interference fears along the way. (See Jury Still Out on LTE-Unlicensed.)

"Whenever we roll out a new technology, there are some vested interests that will benefit and some vested interests that see it as threatening," he said, trying to downplay the dissent.

Qualcomm and T-Mobile's adamant dismissal of interference issues may not do much to assuage concerns seeing as lab trials and successful demos haven't helped either. (See Qualcomm Brings LTE-U to Small Cells and NTT DoCoMo, Huawei Prove LTE-U Works.)

Even so, Qualcomm is marching on with both LTE-U and MuLTEfire. Brenner says the first chips with LTE-U will be available this year and commercial devices will launch next year. T-Mobile and fellow supporter Verizon Wireless are likely to be among the first carriers to deploy the technology. (See Ericsson Preps LTE-U for Verizon, T-Mob & SK Telecom and T-Mobile Assembles LTE-Unlicensed Team.)

— Sarah Thomas, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Editorial Operations Director, Light Reading

CEO&Chai78815 8/4/2015 | 6:27:33 AM
Where is the Wi-Fi industry on this? Where is the united Wi-Fi industry on this issue? Outside of Wi-Fi Alliiance nobody is voicing their concerns. I find it shocking that there's no coordination. We can thank Google and a small handful of other dissenters that are taking a stand against this. 

There's only one proper and responsible outcome of this situation: A neutral third-party body - e.g. the FCC - needs to do exhaustive testing of this. Qualcomm has absolutely everything to win from this and so do the carriers. The information brought forth on whether or not the technical details are true or not is not trustworthy, they are not impartial. 

MikeP688 7/29/2015 | 5:26:05 AM
Maybe A Welcome Development.... As I read through the discourse here "In community" I wondered about the challenges that Qualcomm is facing with the headwinds it has before it as noted here:

The joys of divorce: will Qualcomm split? http://econ.st/1g20Uc6

I wonder if this strategy they're pursuing is part of a broader strategy.

Rahul_atri 7/27/2015 | 11:14:19 PM
Re: LTE-Uncertain Thanks for Sharing the information on this regularly, I second your thoughts, LTE-U is a good solution to have, the issues can be eventually addressed with time, can't happen overnight.Obviously having another fighter in the same club where you are the champion is worrying WiFi but again good to have LTE U as an option. It will ultimately lower the cost of cellular plan
nasimson 7/27/2015 | 9:31:00 PM
More than just US Given that the stakes are so high, I don't see this issue getting to a conclusion anytime soon. However it settles, it has implications for rest of the world. US will be quoted as a precedent.
milan03 7/27/2015 | 7:50:01 PM


I'd like to point out that LTE-U isn't a Carrier Aggregation between WiFi and LTE.  It's Carrier Aggregation between licensed LTE and unlicensed (5Ghz) LTE spectrum blocks.
Sarah Thomas 7/27/2015 | 5:40:51 PM
Qualcomm blog Here's some more from Qualcomm's Brenner in a recent blog post defending LTE-U: https://www.qualcomm.com/news/onq/2015/07/24/setting-record-straight-about-lte-unlicensed-and-wi-fi-coexistence
Sarah Thomas 7/27/2015 | 4:05:11 PM
LTE-Uncertain Qualcomm is pretty eager to put this whole interference issue to bed. I can imagine Brenner is sick of defending it, even with lab trials that show there isn't a problem. Of course, real-world deployments are often different than labs, but I'm not sure what else opponents need to get on board.

MuLTEfire should appeal to those without their own cellular networks, although it requires Qualcomm lock in for now.

It'll be interesting to see how this progresses and if the FCC will actually stay out of it. Either way, I think it's going to take longer than they'd like to get to commercial deployments. 
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