FCC Okays LTE-U, One of Many Steps Toward a "Converged" Spectrum Future

The Federal Communications Commission, T-Mobile US, Verizon, Ericsson and Nokia have taken new steps toward a communications business that uses spectrum more efficiently than ever before, in ways more dynamic than ever before, and “converges” licensed and unlicensed spectrum more tightly than in the past.

The Federal Communications Commission has authorizes LTE-U, a protocol that allows mobile operators to use some unused Wi-Fi spectrum in the U-NII-1 band (5150-5250 MHz) and U-NII-3 band (5725-5850 MHz) as those it were part of a licensed spectrum asset.

Some devices support LTE-U in hardware, including those using Qualcomm's X16 LTE modem (Snapdragon 820 chip and newer designs). That includes smartphones such as the Galaxy S7/S7 Edge, LG V20, and Google Pixel.  Existing T-Mobile phones will probably need a software update to enable LTE-U  functionality.

Verizon has been working towards LTE-U since at least 2015. And T-Mobile US has announced deployment of LTE-U  capabilities in its LTE network, following FCC certification of equipment from Ericsson and Nokia.
T-Mobile US expects to begin commercial LTE-U functions in the spring of 2017. Basically, LTE-U gives T-Mobile US customers the ability to bond some Wi-Fi spectrum (20 MHz) with T-Mobile’s licensed spectrum, while maintaining LTE sessions.


“LTE-U allows wireless providers to deliver mobile data traffic using unlicensed spectrum while
sharing the road, so to speak, with Wi-Fi,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.

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