FCC Lets Qualcomm Test LTE-U With T-Mobile

The FCC has granted Qualcomm additional authority to test LTE-U with T-Mobile. It had already gotten an STA (special temporary authority) to test the technology with Verizon.

Qualcomm is trying to establish that LTE and cable Wi-Fi can coexist, something cable operators have argued needs more verifying before trusting.

The new authority is for 24/7 tests in Washington, California, Texas and Nevada.

Qualcomm is testing LTE in the 5 GHz band now used by cable ops for Wi-Fi. Qualcomm told the FCC it would "continue to work with the Wi-Fi community to ensure successful coexistence."

"Qualcomm is very pleased that the FCC granted our request and will continue to work with the FCC and other stakeholders to ensure LTE-U will fairly coexist with Wi-Fi," said Dean Brenner, senior VP of government affairs. "We will also continue to collaborate with the Wi-Fi Alliance to develop a coexistence test plan, and utilize that plan for joint lab and field testing."

The FCC approval is not a big surprise. The commission is all about encouraging deployment of next-generation wireless service.

The FCC in January approved the testing with Verizon.

LTE backers, like CTIA members Verizon and Qualcomm, have been 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 (U for "unlicensed").

Cable chief technology officers, joined by execs from Google and Microsoft, have told FCC chairman Tom Wheeler that before LTE-U technologies are employed in unlicensed (the "U" in LTE-U) spectrum bands, also used by cable Wi-Fi hot spots, there must be rigorous standards to insure the technology does not impair Wi-Fi.

Cable operators have argued that standards first need to be in place to prevent the new technology from interfering with existing Wi-Fi, currently their major mobile broadband play, while wireless companies insist that the two can co-exist, and LTE-U and LAA, which is a licensed-spectrum assisted version, should roll out ASAP.

The cable CTOs, including from Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Charter and Cablevision, and the computer company execs have told Wheeler and his aides that they don't oppose LTE-U, but that it has so far "avoided the long-proven standards-setting process and would substantially degrade consumer Wi-Fi service across the country."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.