At Qualcomm we strive to "think of the unthinkable, solve the impossible." The newest addition to an impressive list of such feats is what we announced yesterday at our Analyst Day meeting in New York—Extending LTE Advanced to unlicensed spectrum.
You might ask "What? Why?" Well, stay with me here, I am sure you have known or experienced the roaring success of LTE, as well as its excellent user experience and high performance. You might have also heard about the popularity of offloading mobile data traffic to unlicensed spectrum using Wi-Fi. There are many ongoing efforts to streamline the interworking between 3G/4G to make the offload seamless. Qualcomm took this to the extreme by bringing the basic tenets of LTE—high efficiency and robust mobility—to bandwidth-rich unlicensed spectrum. That explains the "What?"
Now let’s look the "Why?" Consider the length that operators are going to address increasing data traffic with small cells and utilizing all spectrum assets being at the top of their agenda. Wouldn’t it be ideal for them to deploy small cells that support LTE not only in their regular licensed spectrum but also in unlicensed spectrum? Mind you, they can leverage their existing core network to make this happen. So, instead of managing two separate networks for licensed and unlicensed spectrum, and dealing with the complexities of interworking between them, they will have one unified network accomplishing the tightest possible interworking. How cool is that?
Okay, the operators are covered. What about the mere mortals like us, the users? Well, remember all the juggling between LTE and Wi-Fi networks; making sure you are connected, and connected to the right technology to get the best speed; worries about the media not seamlessly moving over between the networks, and tolerating video freezing, breaks, restarts etc.? All of that will be over with LTE Advanced in unlicensed spectrum (for the operator network). Because it’s one network, with an anchor in the highly reliable licensed band, you are always in safe hands. Add to that carrier aggregation, across licensed and unlicensed bands, and you, the user, get higher data rates and an enhanced broadband experience.
This is all good, but one natural question someone might ask (we asked it ourselves) is, "will it affect the Wi-Fi networks out there now?" Well, LTE Advanced in unlicensed spectrum has been carefully designed to protect Wi-Fi, so that both can co-exist harmoniously. So, when an operator switches from Wi-Fi (“carrier Wi-Fi” as it is called in the industry) LTE in unlicensed, not only do LTE Advanced users in the unlicensed spectrum benefit but also, in many cases, the neighboring Wi-Fi users.
Moreover, LTE Advanced in unlicensed can be brought to fruition in countries such as the United States, Korea and China using the existing standards (Rel 10) and, of course, by leveraging the existing LTE core networks.
As evident, we have been working on it for some time. Look, we even have a new webpage! We have a lot more to share and discuss and my future blogs will go into the details. If you can’t wait, go to the webpage.