Qualcomm gets permission to test LTE-U at two Verizon sites

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The FCC granted a special temporary authority (STA) to Qualcomm Technologies (NASDAQ:QCOM) to conduct "very small scale performance evaluation" tests of LTE-U equipment at two Verizon (NYSE: VZ) sites in Oklahoma City, Okla., and Raleigh, N.C.

The FCC's Office of Engineering and Technology (OET) routinely grants STAs and experimental licenses for parties to evaluate the performance of products and conduct testing, subject to the condition that no harmful interference is caused, wrote OET chief Julius Knapp in a blog post Friday. However, he added, STAs and experimental licenses do not have any significance relative to whether the commission may ultimately authorize a device or service.

Importantly, LTE-U devices also will require equipment authorization by the FCC Laboratory before they can be marketed in the United States and applicants for certification of such devices will be required to submit a sample devices for testing, Knapp said.

The grant of the license is significant given the amount of controversy generated by LTE-U. In an amendment to its original application, Qualcomm said the Wi-Fi Alliance would be invited to observe the preliminary coexistence tests. That, in part, earned Qualcomm a letter from the Wi-Fi Alliance stating it has no objection to the FCC granting the STA request. The alliance has been adamant that any introduction of LTE in unlicensed space will need to share fairly with Wi-Fi. The Wi-Fi Alliance will hold its second workshop on coexistence on Feb. 10. 

In its Jan. 22 letter to the FCC, the Wi-Fi Alliance added that it remains concerned about the "widespread introduction of LTE-U devices into the Part 15 ecosystem," and it is hopeful that the commission will evaluate testing in real-world scenarios before it approves any routine use of LTE-U products. 

Others remain vigilant as well. WifiForward's partners include Comcast, Google and Microsoft. "Given the significant concerns raised by many stakeholders regarding harm LTE-U will cause to broadband connections over Wi-Fi, we hope the FCC will closely monitor the Qualcomm and Verizon trial," said Bill Maguire, executive director of WifiForward's Save our Wi-Fi campaign. "We are encouraged that the FCC still expects that Qualcomm and other LTE-U supporters work closely with the Wi-Fi community on coexistence testing in the future." 

For its part, Qualcomm continues to be on board to work with the Wi-Fi Alliance. "We are collaborating with the Wi-Fi Alliance to develop a coexistence test plan, and we anticipate using that plan for joint lab and field tests to validate that LTE-U will not have any adverse impact on Wi-Fi," Dean Brenner, Qualcomm SVP of government affairs, said in a statement. "Along with the other proponents of LTE-U, we have a substantial vested interest in Wi-Fi. That's why we are collaborating with all stakeholders to ensure that LTE-U and Wi-Fi coexist successfully."

Last September, a mix of mobile and tech companies formed a coalition called Evolve to promote the benefits of LTE-U and Licensed Assisted Access (LAA), with Qualcomm, AT&T (NYSE: T), Verizon and T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) among them. Other founding members included the Competitive Carriers Association, CTIA and Alcatel-Lucent. Nokia Networks joined shortly thereafter.

Tom Sawanobori, SVP and CTO for CTIA, said the association also is pleased the FCC supports the testing of new LTE services and products. "Fostering innovation in unlicensed bands is key to meeting consumer demand and maintaining our position as global leader in mobile broadband," he said in a statement.

For more:
- see this FCC blog

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