FCC wants to know if carriers can grab some of YOUR WiFi signal

Consultation over the future of LTE-Unlicensed

Cellular antenna. Source: Vxla/Flickr

The United States' Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is looking over a key item on the telco industry's wish-list: spectrum sharing to try and cope with a capacity crunch.

While its consultation paper, here, focuses on “LTE-U” (LTE-Unlicensed), current developments will probably also be relevant to the looming 5G business, which also wants to split spectrum between licensed and unlicensed users.

The FCC says it's been fielding inquiries about the future use of 3.5 GHz and 5 GHz spectrum, and is looking how licensed applications might coexist with unlicensed users such as WiFi.

LTE-U was proposed by Qualcomm in 2014, at which time that company, Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, Samsung and Verizon linked arms to create the LTE-U Forum to promote the technology.

One key concern about spectrum sharing is that LTE-U might behave badly in the presence of other signals, but at least one US operator, T-Mobile, has promised to be polite and “listen before it speaks”.

Light Reading reports T-Mobile will commit to implementing Europe's “Listen Before Talk” (LBT) protocol – a promise that would pressure other operators to do the same.

Since the US is already suffering a shortage of spectrum (its recent auction netted more than US$40 billion), its mobile carriers are keen to scavenge some capacity from the unlicensed sector.

The FCC notes that standards bodies are meant to be hammering out protocols to avoid capacity hogs, and wants submissions on how the technologies would work.

As well as collisions with WiFi in the 5 GHz band, the FCC has to resolve the interests of military and other users of the 3.5 GHz spectrum.

Comments on the consultation paper are open until June 11. ®


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