The Politics Behind LTE-Unlicensed

For some time now, interested companies in 3GPP are pushing for an extension to the LTE specifications to make the technology also usable as an air interface technology for the 5 MHz unlicensed band, currently the domain of Wi-Fi and other radio technologies for which no license is required to operate (i.e. it's free for everyone to use). I wrote about the technology aspects of this earlier this year so have a look there for the details. Apart from the technical side, however, another interesting topic is the politics behind LTE-Unlicensed as not everybody seems to be thrilled by LTE marching into unlicensed territory.

Some parties in 3GPP are totally against LTE becoming usable in an unlicensed band, fearing competition from companies that haven't paid hundreds of millions for beachfront spectrum property. Some cautiously support it in it's current incarnation, which is referred to as LTE-LAA (License Assisted Access), as it requires an LTE carrier in a licensed band to control transmission of an LTE carrier in an unlicensed band. In effect that keeps the would be upstart competition at bay. And then there are those who want to completely release the breaks and extend LTE to make it usable in a standalone way in unlicensed bands. Perfectly irreconcilable. I'm writing all of this because I recently came across an article that sheds some light on what's going on which I found quite interesting.

2 thoughts on “The Politics Behind LTE-Unlicensed”

  1. Hi Martin, just today came across your interesting blog. I guess you refer to 5GHz above. Indeed I find this topic even more political than the WiMAX vs LTE debate some years ago. Currently it is the US carriers + Qualcomm& Ericsson leading the charge. It remains to be seen if the push will become more international.

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