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LTE-U: Just the facts

Bret Swanson | Sept. 10, 2015
Debunking the myths and scare tactics needed for reasonable discussion.

The early results are encouraging. In real-world tests so far, LTE-U delivers better performance than Wi-Fi, doesn’t degrade nearby Wi-Fi performance and may in fact improve the performance of nearby Wi-Fi networks.

Further, as early co-inventor of Wi-Fi Richard Bennet recently wrote, “LTE-U uses a small device in the home, office, or coffee shop the size of a microcell or a Wi-Fi access point. And even when this device is installed, Wi-Fi will continue to serve as an alternate download channel to your phone.”

LTE-U detractors argue that mobile service providers will use LTE-U to deliver services that compete with Wi-Fi and will thus disadvantage competitive service providers. But the mobile service providers already operate lots of Wi-Fi hotspots. They are some of the biggest operators of Wi-Fi hotspots anywhere.

In other words, they already coexist with Google, cable and a host of innovators in this unlicensed space. LTE-U is merely a different protocol that makes use of the same unlicensed spectrum, and must abide by the same rules, as Wi-Fi. The mobile providers just think LTE-U can deliver better performance and better integrate with their wide-area LTE-based cellular networks.

I will be looking for more real-world tests that either confirm or contradict the initially encouraging evidence. Until then, we should not prejudge and block a potentially useful new technology. We should remain optimistic that cooler heads prevail. As Snyder concluded, “Ultimately, all these companies are in the business of transmitting data, and it matters less and less where that data originates, over what spectrum it rides, or what information it contains.”


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