OnQ Blog

The benefits of LTE in unlicensed spectrum

Qualcomm and its wireless industry partners are very excited about the latest technology they are developing. “LTE Unlicensed” is a new innovation that can increase mobile users’ download speeds by transmitting data over both licensed and unlicensed spectrum. It incorporates the superior attributes of 4G LTE Advanced and integrates spectrum sharing tools to ensure fair sharing with all other unlicensed uses including Wi-Fi.

For the past several years, Qualcomm has focused on delivering solutions to support a 1000X increase in data traffic carried over mobile networks. This remarkable increase is being driven by the unprecedented growth of connected devices and their need to deliver richer content. While it is essential that the federal government and the wireless industry continue working together to make more spectrum available for mobile broadband use, consumer demand is rapidly outpacing the available spectrum, and the wireless industry is being forced to use any and all spectrum resources with the most efficient technologies possible.

LTE Unlicensed takes advantage of 4G LTE Advanced features to support a 1000X increase in data traffic by enabling densification of service provider networks using small cells, deployment of more spectrally efficient technologies, and aggregation of licensed and unlicensed spectrum resources to provide greater capacity for smartphones and tablets, and provide consumers with a far better user experience. LTE Unlicensed brings into the unlicensed realm for the first time certain attributes from cellular to support successful wide scale deployments, which will enable service providers to provide an improved level of service in the face of increased traffic demands.

Given that today’s mobile users rely heavily upon Wi-Fi technology, which also uses unlicensed spectrum, it is critically important that LTE Unlicensed work harmoniously with Wi-Fi and all other unlicensed uses. LTE Unlicensed incorporates a number of tools, such as channel sensing and listen-before-talk type techniques, to ensure that it shares spectrum fairly with other unlicensed uses like Wi-Fi. As a leading supplier of Wi-Fi technology, Qualcomm has a strong vested interest in ensuring that LTE Unlicensed and Wi-Fi operate together harmoniously. At the same time that we are developing LTE Unlicensed technology, we are improving current Wi-Fi implementations and designing the next generation of Wi-Fi.

Qualcomm and its wireless industry partners have done extensive tests, simulations, and analyses to demonstrate that LTE-U does not have any adverse impact on Wi Fi and actually will improve Wi-Fi in many cases. This extensive technical work is detailed in two FCC filings (Comments and Reply Comments) that describe how LTE Unlicensed has been designed to equitably share spectrum with Wi-Fi and provide a greatly improved user experience.

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