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FCC Is on the Sidelines as Manufacturers, MNOs Plan to Use Wi-Fi Spectrum

Wi-Fi Alliance hopes to deliver a final test plan this summer that could be executed by any test lab

LOS ANGELES� LTE-U and LTE-LAA are means by which Mobile Network Operators can make use of unlicensed spectrum that has typically been used by Wi-Fi up to this point. (See more on the topic here.) The Wi-Fi Alliance is concerned that ultimately, both LTE-U and LTE-LAA may force out wi-fi users, and essentially take over the unlicensed spectrum that many of us use on a regular basis.

Wi-Fi Alliance�s�latest workshoptook place in the last week of April in San Jose, Calif.� The alliance is developing a test plan to understand LTE-Unlicensed/Wi-Fi interactions that protect Wi-Fi.

In March, the alliance released an �alpha� draft test procedure for ensuring successful coexistence that contained more than 100 individual tests covering all aspects of Wi-Fi coexistence, including channel selection, dynamic channel sharing and Wi-Fi calling. �The alliance hopes to deliver a final test plan this summer that could be executed by any test lab.

The Federal Communications Commission has not commented on the coexistence question, although �it has made clear it is watching as developments progress,� according� At the Wi-Fi Now event, Eduardo Esteves, VP at Qualcomm, praised the FCC�s approach, saying its strategy of telling industry players to work things out among themselves was �exemplary.� The same article goes on to say that Michael Marcus, director at Spectrum Solutions, argued the FCC has �sustained too many staff and budgetary cuts to contribute substantively toward ensuring LTE and Wi-Fi coexist well, and that is why it has been so hands off.�

Recent tests byBroadcomshow that, particularly in the outdoor environment, Wi-Fi power signals tend to be much lower than the levels at which LTE-U is designed to detect them, meaning that even if a Wi-Fi user could get decent experience on a channel at low power, LTE-U willassume no Wi-Fi is presentand behave accordingly. Even license-assisted access technology, which has a built-in �listen-before-talk� feature, may inadvertently interfere with Wi-Fi due to disparities in signal levels, according to Chris Symanski, director of government affairs for Broadcom. �At the end of the day, the impact of this is going to be felt by the users,� Symanski said. �You�re not going to have the OEM going out on site with a support team, saying, �hey, that router you bought isn�t working anymore.� It�s going to be felt by the users.�