The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has given the green signal for the further testing of LTE-U - where U stands for unlicensed - to Verizon and Qualcomm.

Currently, mobile phones are able to grab data over LTE or Wi-Fi; however, Verizon and Qualcomm have been pushing for LTE-U for several months now. LTE-U enables mobile phones to deploy LTE technology even when these are operational on airwaves that are traditionally used by Wi-Fi.

If LTE-U gets long-term regulatory approval, it could pave the way for more effective data usage by cellular devices. However, advocators of Wi-Fi such as Google argue that the LTE devices may congest the airwaves and completely shut out Wi-Fi.

While several cable companies and Google have been against the approval of LTE-U, saying that it could crowd and interfere with other airwaves, pundits have called the argument presumptuous because Google has not used any LTE-U equipment for its tests, but deployed a signal generator instead.

On Friday, Qualcomm received the FCC's go-ahead to test out LTE-U equipment at two facilities belonging to Verizon - in Raleigh, North Carolina and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The regulatory body's Office of Engineering and Technology (OET) granted special temporary authority (STA) to Qualcomm so that it can carry out small-scale performance evaluation tests on the LTE-U gear.

"The Wi-Fi Alliance, working together with advocates of LTE-U, is developing a test plan to evaluate the co-existence 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," notes Julius Knapp, OET chief. "Qualcomm and Verizon have agreed to participate in subsequent laboratory and real world co-existence testing of LTE-U."

The move offers Qualcomm and Verizon the opportunity to show that LTE-U will not cause any interference with Wi-Fi, as well as other spectrum users who are unlicensed.

Qualcomm has revealed that it is pleased by FCC's decision and the letter from the Wi-Fi Alliance, which gives a go-ahead and does not oppose the chipmaker's application.

"We are collaborating with the Wi-Fi Alliance to develop a coexistence test plan, and we anticipate using that plan for joint lab and field tests to validate that LTE-U will not have any adverse impact on Wi-Fi," says Dean Brenner, Qualcomm's senior vice president of government affairs. "We would like to thank the FCC and the Wi-Fi Alliance for working with us to reach this important result."

The granting of experimental licenses and STAs is not uncommon for the OET. These licenses, however, do not hold any surety as to whether the FCC will ultimately give approval to the requested service or device for which the testing is being conducted.

Photo: Ben Brown | Flickr

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