Wireless Connectivity

Qualcomm Lobbies for LTE on Unlicensed Spectrum

25 November 2013

Qualcomm has begun to campaign for LTE Advanced mobile communications to be deployed on unlicensed radio spectrum at 5-GHz, where Wi-Fi resides. The fabless communications giant launched the move at an analysts' day in New York, according to Prakash Sangam, director of technical marketing, writing in a blog posting on Qualcomm's website.

Qualcomm argues that the move is necessary to provide for 1,000-fold increase in mobile data communications traffic that is coming, although the company makes no predictions about how soon that increase will arrive.

The argument runs that LTE Advanced on unlicensed spectrum would bring higher efficiency and robustness than Wi-Fi, while also allowing a seamless extension of the LTE Advanced network. Carrier offloading to Wi-Fi already takes place to relieve pressure on the core network but would be better if it was done under LTE-Advanced, Qualcomm argues.

LTE Advanced in unlicensed spectrum provides better range than carrier Wi-Fi and would also result in fewer small cell access points to provide the same coverage as carrier Wi-Fi, as LTE Advanced on unlicensed spectrum could result in increased capacity via fewer cells. The result would be a unified network with improved performance and cost savings in terms of network deployment, operation and management.

Qualcomm (San Diego) says its proposals for LTE Advance on unlicensed spectrum have been designed to avoid interference with existing Wi-Fi users. At the same time, LTE Advanced in unlicensed spectrum can begin in countries such as the United States, Korea and China using the existing 3GPP Release 10 standard while making use of the existing LTE core networks. In most other countries, standards modifications will be needed to meet the regulatory requirements for "Listen Before Talk" features.

While the move initially targets the 5 GHz unlicensed band, Qualcomm is not restricting the initiative to that part of the spectrum.

With the announcement, Qualcomm has revealed it has been working on the proposal for some time. The company has prepared a webpage for interested parties to find out about the topic.

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