January 29, 2016 - 11:45 am
By Julius Knapp | Chief, Office of Engineering & Technology

The Commission has been actively engaged in the use of the 4G LTE radio communications devices designed to operate in unlicensed spectrum, also known as LTE-U. Various parties have expressed concern that LTE-U may not share spectrum fairly with Wi-Fi and other devices operating in unlicensed spectrum. The Office of Engineering & Technology and the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau have encouraged the industry to address and resolve these concerns and considerable progress has been made.

Throughout this process, the Commission has closely monitored developments and actively encouraged all stakeholders to work together to find common ground. And, we’ve held meetings with stakeholders on both the Wi-Fi and LTE-U sides, including cable companies, device manufacturers, wireless carriers, and others. The public can read comments inDocket ET 15-105.

Today, the FCC’S Office of Engineering and Technology is taking an important step by granting a special temporary authority (STA) to Qualcomm to conduct very small scale performance evaluation tests of LTE-U equipment at two Verizon sites in Oklahoma City, OK and Raleigh, NC. OET routinely grants STAs and experimental licenses for parties to evaluate the performance of products and conduct testing, subject to the condition that no harmful interference is caused. STAs and experimental licenses do not have any significance relative to whether the Commission may ultimately authorize a device or service.

The Wi-Fi Alliance, working together with advocates of LTE-U, is developing a test plan to evaluate the coexistence of LTE-U with Wi-Fi and other devices operating in the unlicensed spectrum. A draft of the plan is expected to be released early next month. Qualcomm and Verizon have agreed to participate in subsequent laboratory and real world co-existence testing of LTE-U. The Wi-Fi Alliance recently submitted a letter expressing appreciation for Qualcomm’s continued engagement in the Wi-Fi Alliance’s coexistence work and expressing that it had no objection to the grant of an STA for equipment testing at Verizon facilities, with the assurance of continued cooperation in the separate co-existence evaluation and testing process.

The success of the unlicensed bands as laboratories of innovation is largely the result of industry-driven coordination and, while significant steps remain before LTE-U can be considered for commercial deployment, we believe that this development is an encouraging step in continuing that success.

Regarding the steps remaining before LTE-U could be commercially deployed, it is important to note that experimental LTE-U device operation at any other location would require a new STA. Further, the parties have agreed to conduct lab and real world coexistence testing, the results of which will be shared with the Commission. LTE-U devices will also require equipment authorization by the FCC Laboratory before they can be marketed in the United States and applicants for certification of such devices will be required to submit a sample devices for testing.

OET and WTB will continue to closely monitor industry progress towards resolution of the spectrum sharing concerns. We are pleased with the progress thus far and encourage the continued cooperation of all of the stakeholders.

Updated: 
January 29, 2016