The FCC is opening up the 5 GHz spectrum band to unlicensed LTE use as a way to boost spectrum sharing and wireless broadband.
“This is a significant advance in wireless innovation and a big win for wireless consumers," said FCC chairman Ajit Pai.
“LTE-U allows wireless providers to deliver mobile data traffic using unlicensed spectrum while sharing the road, so to speak, with Wi-Fi. The excellent staff of the FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology has certified that the LTE-U devices being approved today are in compliance with FCC rules. And voluntary industry testing has demonstrated that both these devices and Wi-Fi operations can co-exist in the 5 GHz band. This heralds a technical breakthrough in the many shared uses of this spectrum."
The FCC certified LTE-U equipment from Ericsson and Nokia, T-Mobile said, which means the carrier can start deploying the technology in its network, which it will start doing this spring.
T-Mobile says tapping into 20 MHz of 5 GHz spectrum—the "U" in LTE-U stands for unlicensed—will help it deliver gigabit LTE to more areas of the country.
LTE-U backers have been somewhat at odds with the forces of cable Wi-Fi over opening up spectrum currently used by cable providers for their primary Wi-Fi play to telcos looking to create their own broadband hot spots via LTE-U.
But the two sides got together on testing.
"LTE-U and Wi-Fi stakeholders worked together under the auspices of the Wi-Fi Alliance to develop co-existence guidelines and an evaluation test plan that was released last fall," pointed out FCC chief engineer Julius Knapp.
Related: FCC Approves Qualcomm LTE-U Test
“Verizon is excited about today’s announcement from the FCC that it has granted the first authorizations for LTE-U equipment," said Verizon SVP Will Johnson. "As demand for bandwidth continues to skyrocket, LTE-U will enable our customers to benefit from more data at faster speeds where they live work, live, and play. This is an example of yet another great innovation using unlicensed spectrum.”
"Today's approval of two LTE-U devices is an important milestone in unlicensed spectrum policy and consumer protection," said WiFiForward, a a diverse coalition that includes NCTA: The Internet & Television Association. google, the Consumer Technology Association, Microsoft and Best Buy. "Two years ago, equipment manufacturers submitted LTE-U devices for approval to the FCC that could have impaired the millions of consumers who rely on Wi-Fi. Instead of regulating, the FCC encouraged industry to work together to develop a plan to mitigate that harm. The result is the Wi-Fi Alliance test plan. WifiForward is pleased that Ericsson and Nokia have certified that they have passed the complete industry-developed coexistence plan. As unlicensed technologies continue to meet our growing demand for broadband, we hope today’s announcement demonstrates how the Wi-Fi community will work hard and successfully to develop sharing mechanisms to connect more people."
“We are extremely pleased with today’s FCC actions, which represent a major step forward for American consumers, demonstrate strong US leadership in mobile broadband, and recognize years of research and development and inventions by Qualcomm and its partners," said Qualcomm in a statement. "Today’s FCC actions substantiate Qualcomm’s deep technical collaboration with stakeholders from every facet of the wireless industry, including the cellular and Wi-Fi communities, in developing LTE Unlicensed to ensure that unlicensed spectrum remains open for permission-less innovation to enable faster, better mobile broadband and that new technologies will demonstrably co-exist successfully with incumbents.”