The Office of Engineering and Technology and the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau have been closely monitoring industry efforts to ensure that new versions of LTE technology can co-exist with Wi-Fi and other unlicensed devices operating at 5 GHz.  

The Commission’s rules for unlicensed devices are designed to prevent harmful interference to authorized radio services through limits on transmitter power and spurious emissions.  Industry has developed standards such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Zigbee within the framework of these rules, generally with the intention of ensuring cooperative sharing of the spectrum by unlicensed devices while recognizing that such devices are not protected from interference. 

This past March the 3GPP, which is an international standards body, developed a LAA (Licensed Assisted Access) standard that is designed to allow unlicensed devices using a version of LTE to operate under the provisions for unlicensed at 5 GHz.   LAA includes features such as listen-before-talk to ensure equitable sharing with other unlicensed devices.   We are aware that equipment manufacturers have since developed devices based on this standard and we will proceed to grant equipment certification for LAA devices that meet the Commission’s rules.

LTE-U (LTE for unlicensed) is a specification that was developed and supported by a group of companies within the LTE-U Forum.   The various stakeholders agreed to engage in a process established by the Wi-Fi Alliance to evaluate the coexistence of LTE-U with Wi-Fi. This process culminated in a co-existence evaluation test plan that was released on September 21, 2016.  The next step will be for industry to use the test plan to evaluate the co-existence of any LTE-U devices.

Throughout this process we have strongly encouraged industry to address and resolve sharing concerns while preserving the principle of permission-less access for unlicensed devices throughout the spectrum.  Such access has generated countless innovative products for consumers.   We recognize that development of the co-existence test plan has been a difficult process involving various compromises by all of the stakeholders. 

We are pleased with the progress that has been made.   OET and WTB will continue to closely monitor the roll-out of unlicensed LTE technology to ensure there is no detrimental impact on consumers.